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December 21, 2013

New St. Lawrence Psych plan leaves locals wary

PLATTSBURGH — Local mental-health-care professionals don’t know yet how a new plan to keep inpatient units open at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg would affect services here.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new plan Thursday.

St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is the only long-term inpatient psychiatric center in the North Country.

“My concern all along is, whether or not the hospital closes, we need services locally,” said Sherrie Gillette, director of Community Services for the Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services. “We have none of the specifics about how this will impact our county.”

Gillette was part of the Regional Centers of Excellence committee that was making recommendations and planning for the closure.

Per the new proposal, St. Lawrence would keep the 48 adult and 20 children’s beds it has now. A number of outpatient services would be added.

And a Children’s Behavioral Health Center of Excellence would be established, as the closure of one adult ward there would provide $3 million in savings to help pay for it, the plan says.

Craig Amoth, president and CEO of Behavioral Health Services North (BHSN) in Plattsburgh, echoed Gillette’s feelings in a statement, saying the new information calls for review and discussion among local officials and the State Office of Mental Health to more fully understand what it would mean for North Country residents.

‘NATIONAL TREND’

Gillette said there is a nationwide trend that’s pushing toward community-based care.

“It’s very difficult for families to make that two-and-a-half hour trek (to Ogdensburg), especially in the winter and with the price of gas and so on.”

Amoth said the effort to move resources closer to the home communities of patients is “consistent with national health-reform efforts to achieve the ‘triple aim’ of lowering costs, improving outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction.”

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