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St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, NY. Photo: Lizette Haenel
St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, NY. Photo: Lizette Haenel

Legislature to hold hearing on future of Ogdensburg psychiatric center

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New York's Office of Mental Health plans to close 65 inpatient beds at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg.

It's part of a larger plan to reshape the state's mental health care system, downsizing some, and expanding others to create what the state calls "centers of excellence." And in the Ogdensburg area, it's sparked angry opposition.

The state legislature is holding hearings in communities affected by the plan -- including one in Ogdensburg tomorrow.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

When state Senator Pattie Richie heard that the state going to reduce mental health services in Ogdensburg, she wasn’t happy – and neither were some of her constituents.

"I think a lot of people in the community didn’t think they were listened to," Richie said. But tomorrow’s hearing, the Senator says, gives the community a chance to be heard again.   

"This is an opportunity to hear that we need more services in our state, not fewer." 

Under the new plan, North Country patients would have to travel to Syracuse, and children would be treated in Utica. The Ogdensburg facility would focus on outpatient services, and keep its sex offender program in place.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, from Middletown, helped organize the hearings. She wants to understand how the Office of Mental Health’s plan will affect patients and communities facing reductions and closures. Gunther says the plan is still fluid – and the hearings provide a chance to influence it.

"And we all want people to remain out of acute care and to remain in their community. But sometimes there are those that do need it and making sure they have access to the care. The other side of the equation is, if there are some closures necessary, assuring that there are reinvestments in the community." 

Last summer Gunther proposed a bill in the Assembly requiring OMH to reinvest 50% of its savings directly back into communities whose mental health facilities had closed.

And Richie says that keeping inpatient services available in Ogdensburg is one of her top priorities when she returns to Albany in January.

"We want to make sure the services are here, we want to make sure those jobs are protected, and this hearing is the opportunity for the community to come out and speak about the services and families to speak about what the facility has meant to them."

The Office of Mental Health isn’t commenting about the hearings. But they are submitting testimony in support of their plan.

Tomorrow’s hearing will be held in Ogd­­ensburg City Hall at 10 a.m. 

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