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One of the historic buildings of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Photo: Lizette Haenel.
One of the historic buildings of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Photo: Lizette Haenel.

Ritchie co-sponsors bill to delay psych center closure

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A group of Republican lawmakers wants to delay the state's plan to close nine mental health centers in New York, including the psych center in Ogdensburg. State Senator Patty Ritchie is co-sponsoring a bill that would freeze the plan until 2015.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

The Office of Mental Health’s downsizing plan was announced last summer while lawmakers were on break. State Senator Patty Ritchie says it’s been half baked from the beginning, "Kind of like a plan that’s being developed as they go, and this is too critical of an issue to let this happen."

Under the plan, the state will consolidate 24 psychiatric facilities into 15, with none of them to be located north of the New York State Thruway. The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg, where more than 500 people work, would largely close.

Ritchie has co-sponsored a bill that would delay that plan until 2015. The deputy leader of the Senate, Tom Libous, is also a co-sponsor.

Ritchie says there needs to be an alternative to patients and their failies having to drive to appointments in Syracuse or Utica, "They would have to drive over a hundred miles to a treatment center for their loved ones, considering not only the distance but the climate in the winter here. Many times the roads are not passable."

The bill doesn’t have a sponsor in the Democratic-controlled Assembly yet. Ritchie says she hasn’t approached Assemblywoman Addie Russell yet, but she says they’ve attended meetings about the psych center together.

The bill has gotten the attention of Governor Cuomo’s administration. According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Cuomo is open to “a counter proposal” to the plan.

Ritchie says that’s good news, "For the Governor to say that he’s open to a counter, that at least sends the signal that he understands that there are concerns and there are some problems with the plan."

Ritchie says she and the members of the task force trying to save the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center have a meeting scheduled with Cuomo’s staff on December 10. It’s unclear if the Governor will be there himself.

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