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Date set for Psych Center Task Force meeting with Gov. Cuomo’s office

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A date has been set for members of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force to meet with representatives from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office and make their case for keeping inpatient care local.

The meeting will be held on Dec. 10 in the Blue Room on the second floor of the capitol in Albany from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., Task Force Chair Charles “Chuck” W. Kelly said.

The state Office of Mental Health has proposed creating a network of regional centers of excellence and relocating adult and child inpatient care from Ogdensburg to locations downstate.

Under the proposal mental health care would be largely pushed into the community and centered around outpatient facilities.

But the task force hopes to convince the governor, who has the final say on green-lighting the proposal by OMH, that the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center should be a regional center of excellence and that removing inpatient services from the community would be devastating.

Mr. Kelly said local leaders will be joined by Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Assemblymember Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa, at the meeting with the governor’s staff.

“We want to go down there and impress them that we’ve done our homework,” Mr. Kelly said. “We want [the psychiatric center] to continue; we want it to be a center of excellence.”

Whether or not the governor will be able to attend the meeting personally Mr. Kelly said top leaders in the Cuomo administration are scheduled to attend.

Mr. Kelly said the people from the governor’s office who will hear their case are the key decision makers within the administration who will be able to pass along their appeal to Mr. Cuomo.

Ogdensburg City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the task force is also planning on sending letters to every member of the state Senate and Assembly mental hygiene committees in an effort to convince them to oppose the plan by OMH which would see the only inpatient facility north of the thruway shuttered.

The task force is hoping to continue gathering personal stories from members of the north country community regarding the impact that closing the inpatient care facilities in Ogdensburg will have.

Mr. Kelly said the personal stories, which are published and distributed to law makers, are crucial to make the case that the closure of the psychiatric center will be felt on a personal level as families are forced to travel longer distances to visit loved ones.

Personal stories describing the impact the closure of inpatient care facilities would have should be sent to the Ogdensburg City Manager’s office, 330 Ford St. #1, Ogdensburg NY 13669.

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