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Closing psych center would be devastating

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The recent news regarding the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is disturbing for many reasons. First, there are several hundred employees, many of whom will lose their jobs or be forced to relocate elsewhere to keep their employment.

Equally important is the loss of a mental health facility known for its quality of care. The inpatient facilities for our region will be located in Utica for children and Syracuse for adults.

That is a long drive, particularly during our harsh winter months, for people needing mental health care. Working parents with children in the current adolescent unit live in communities all across Northern New York and struggle with visiting and being part of the care being given.

Adding a two- to three-hour drive to Utica or Syracuse will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for these folks. The probability is fewer people needing this care will be able to access it. Instead they will try to cope without treatment, remaining at home, in our community and in our schools.

Administrators in our schools already find mental health care barely adequate. Whenever we read of senseless violence, there is a familiar refrain from community and political leaders that we need more accessible mental health care.

But that has been empty rhetoric. We all know there has been a steady increase in the number of people needing this care living in our communities and receiving little care.

The proposal to close the psychiatric center in Ogdensburg is a bad idea. The proposal to have a central region running from Binghamton in the southern tier to Malone and Plattsburg in the north, with the center of care located in Syracuse or Utica, is a worse idea.

I hope our senators and assembly persons will fight to kill this proposal.

Robert McNeil

Lisbon

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