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County officials affirm commitment to fight OMH proposal to close inpatient services at SLPC

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The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force and representatives of the county government reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring inpatient services are not moved downstate at a meeting Tuesday evening.

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

Carolyn M. White, chair of the St. Lawrence County Community Services Board, said, “We’re hoping against all hope that we will be able to save at least some of the inpatient psychiatric services here in St. Lawrence County because this hospital has always been a very excellent hospital and provided excellent services.”

That sentiment was echoed by Community Services Director Angela M. Doe who is a member of the Central New York Regional Centers of Excellence Steering Committee that advises the OMH about the proposal to create regional centers of excellence for psychiatric care.

Under the current proposal there would not be a regional center of excellence north of Utica and would see the state focusing on community based care in the north country.

“While community based services are important to quality care, we also have to realize that it should not be, and isn’t a replacement for inpatient psychiatric care,” Ms. Doe said.

“Under no circumstances as the director of Community Services am I advocating for an inpatient psychiatric level of care to go away,” Ms. Doe added. “In fact what I’m advocating is for us to have a full, effective, quality, robust continuum of community based services that include inpatient psychiatric care for our clients, in particular at [the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center].”

St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire said the effort to keep inpatient services local needs to continue forward with a unified message that focuses on gaining publicity, talking directly and privately with the OMH and convincing politicians to support the retention of services.

“The Task Force makes a lot of noise,” Ms. St. Hilaire said, noting its ability to direct the spotlight on issues created by the OMH plan.

Task Force Chairman Charles W. “Chuck” Kelly said they plan on making more noise going forward.

Ogdensburg City Manager John M. Pinkerton said, “We feel strongly that it’s a David versus Goliath fight and David won before and David can win again.”

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