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Thu., Oct. 8
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Psych Center Task Force presses for meeting with governor, discusses rallies


OGDENSBURG - The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force is gearing up for the next stage of the fight to keep inpatient services local by planning rallies and discussing how to best sway the governor.

The state Office of Mental Health has proposed moving child inpatient care to Utica and adult inpatient care to Syracuse.

Task Force Chair Charles “Chuck” W. Kelly said the task force is hoping their message will reach Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and convince him to amend the plan by OMH.

In a letter sent to Mr. Cuomo on Sept. 10 Mr. Kelly said, “When we met at the Elite Bass Masters Tournament in Waddington last month, you graciously agreed to meet with members of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force and me.”

Mr. Kelly said he intends to hold the governor to his word and hopes to hear back from him about a meeting in the near future. “We’re at his mercy,” Mr. Kelly said.

In addition to requesting a meeting with the governor the task force is planning to send him more than 300 postcards signed by concerned residents that oppose the decision of the OMH.

Ogdensburg City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the letter writing campaign is a crucial step for the task force.

“Now that things are moving, maybe [people] are feeling more secure, more engaged, more hopeful so we can bring them into the fight,” he said. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on to get a meeting with the governor.”

Members of the task force also pointed to last week’s public hearing with members of the state Senate and Assembly at City Hall that discussed the future of the psychiatric center as a sign of progress.

Assembly member Addie J. Russell commended “the diversity of speakers and their points of view.”

More than 40 people spoke in opposition to the closure of inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center at the hearing last week including health care professionals and those who are impacted by mental health issues directly.

“People got to the emotional part; we hit them with facts and figures,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “Overall the hearing was a great success for us. We’ve got to keep that momentum going.”

Mr. Kelly said the Ogdensburg Knights of Columbus sponsored spaghetti dinner on Sept. 14 that raised over $1,000 to support the task force’s efforts is an example of the community rallying around the effort.

St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency CEO Patrick J. Kelly said the north county community in general needs to be thanked for its support.

“We’ve received over 100 resolutions and letters of support,” he said.

Ogdensburg Mayor William D. Nelson said the next big local event should be a rally. “I think it demonstrates what we all said: there is huge support in the community.”

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