August 12, 2013

St. Lawrence inpatient services slated to close

PLATTSBURGH — A plan to redesign the state’s mental-health system would end inpatient services at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. 

Local officials in the mental-health field believe the move could benefit the North Country.

According to an extensive report on the changes released by the New York State Office of Mental Health, the St. Lawrence Adult Inpatient Unit will be transferred to regional centers in Syracuse or Albany, and the Children’s and Adolescent Inpatient Unit will be transferred to a regional center in Utica.

The plan does not need legislative approval, but the Office of Mental Health is required to provide a one-year notice to the legislature and the public before initiating the project.

Officials say the plan would save the state $20 million over a three-year transition period, which begins in July 2014.

“The general idea, of course, is to reduce the total number of state hospitals in New York state,” said Sherrie Gillette, director of Community Services for the Clinton County Mental Health and Addiction Services. 

“We have more state (mental-health) hospitals here than any other state in the country.”


The nation began to close mental-health hospitals nationwide 40 years ago in an effort to “move all services back to the community so that people in need of hospitalization would not have to be removed from their family and home community,” Gillette added.

The recent efforts to restructure New York’s mental-health system is a continuation of those long-term efforts, she said.

“Having 24 hospitals (statewide) is an example of bygone times,” said Craig Amoth, executive director of Behavioral Health Services North in Plattsburgh.

The approaching plan would reduce that number to 15, he said. 

“For the most part, the concept makes a ton of sense.”

State hospitals provide 1 percent of the state’s mental-health services but use up to 20 percent of the costs in mental-health care, Amoth noted.

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