PLATTSBURGH — Officials statewide are praising the Office of Mental Health’s plan to close several mental-health hospitals across New York, including the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg.
Lauri Cole, executive director for the New York State Council for Behavioral Health, believes the state can’t continue to operate its mental-health system as it is now.
“The current system is oversized for the number of patients who utilize its services,” she said from her office in Albany.
“As scarce as resources continue to be, it’s important that we use those resources to invest in community mental-health systems.”
State hospitals such as St. Lawrence specialize in long-term care for patients with mental illness, but the current trend is to provide community-based, non-hospital-based services, Cole stressed.
“The community-based system of care in our state is overwhelmed,” she said.
“For instance, outpatient mental-health clinics often have very long waiting lists. The quicker you can intervene (in providing a person with mental-health care), the less likely the need for more acute, long-term services.”
With the closure of high-cost hospitals, subsequent savings can be reinvested into the communities to improve access to services, Cole noted.
“We certainly hope that some of the dollars associated with this retooling (of state facilities) will result in plugging the holes of unmet needs based on the priorities of each community, as well as the enhancement of existing services,” she said.
Harvey Rosenthal, executive director for the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, believes any revisions to the state’s mental-health program are long overdue.
“This is a system that was crafted in the ‘70s and ‘80s when we were much more involved in custodial care and institutional care and it was believed people were not able to recover (in the community),” he said.