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Massena police chief urges state to revisit plan to end inpatient care at psych center


To The Editor:

August 14, 2013

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of New York State

NYS State Capitol Building

Albany, NY 12224

Re: St. Lawrence Psychiatric Facility

Dear Governor Cuomo;

I am contacting you to encourage you to reconsider the decision to eliminate inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Facility.

I applaud your efforts to revamp the mental health system in New York State. As a twenty five year veteran in law enforcement, where nearly twenty of those years have been spent serving my community as Chief of Police, I can tell you that the amount of time and effort my agency has spent dealing with mentally ill people and mental health incidents has steadily increased.

Mental Health Incidents in Massena:

1993-1997 averaged 16.4 per year

1998-2002 averaged 23.0 per year

2003-2007 averaged 43.4 per year

2008-2011 averaged 62.5 per year

2012-84 mental health incidents

2013-January to June, 46 mental health incidents

Suicide rates in St. Lawrence County have nearly tripled since 2007.

Our community has faced a 232 percent increase in our type 1 criminal offenses since 1998. We have been dealing with a prescription drug misuse epidemic and currently have a heroin issue on our streets. The reality is that often times a connection can be made between mental health and criminal offenses.

A great portion of our mental health incidents involve Emergency Pick Up Orders issued by the director of Mental Health under Section 9.41 of the NYS Mental Hygiene Law. A pick up order takes us several hours to complete where we ultimately transport the individual to Ogdensburg. If the closing of an impatient facility impacts this practice and requires us to transport the subject a greater distance, my agency will be unable to fulfill its statutory requirement without a significant local cost to our citizens.

Since you visited our area twice in the last month, first the Adirondacks in July and Waddington last week, I know you know firsthand how remote this area of the state can be.

I cannot imagine asking family members of someone requiring inpatient care for mental illness being required to drive to Utica New York or elsewhere to visit and support their loved one while in treatment.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t speak to the economic impact a closure of the facility would mean to our region. I know that you are aware that St. Lawrence County ranks near the bottom in this state with regard to economic growth.

Anytime I see the loss of jobs, I worry about that that will impact our crime rates. Economic strength helps make communities more safe. Job losses, increases in poverty and economic instability makes communities less safe.

The hard truth about Northern New York is, that although we feel we live in most beautiful area of the state, we have the least amount of resources; less access to services than other area of the state and we have less impact upon decisions that affect our future.

You can change that Governor and I strongly urge you to consider keeping the St. Lawrence Psychiatric facility open. The answer for Northern New York is not less mental health services but more.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this letter and your consideration. I am more than willing to discuss this with you or a member of your staff.

Respectfully Submitted,

Timmy J. Currier

Chief of Police

cc. Senator Joseph A. Griffo

Assemblywoman Addie Russell

Mayor James Hidy, Village of Massena

Chairman Jonathan S. Putney, SLC Legislature

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