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Attend psych center forum

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To The Editor:

For at least 120 years patients in need of psychiatric treatment have been cared for through the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center (formerly known as the St. Lawrence State Hospital). Communities served are St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Essex and Franklin counties.

The quality of the employees at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, and the clinics throughout the counties it serves, remains outstanding. Many families in St. Lawrence County have had three or four generations of the same family working at the psychiatric center.

Any shortcomings in the care of the mentally ill have been in Albany, not in the north country. Albany has come up with many changes over the years, but has never followed up on any of them by giving proper funding or proper care.

The newest dream the Albany bureaucrats have come up with is to create “regional Centers of Excellence” to be affiliated with research hospitals and academic instituions.

It all sounds wonderful if you didn’t know New York state and its Office of Mental Health’s track record over the past 50 years or more. I suggest to you that this is nothing more than a new way of taking 500 more jobs out of the north country. Shameful! Keep in mind that when a person is in need of psychiatric care, they need that care immediately. They should not be put on waiting lists or shipped off to a so-called wellness center. It makes me wonder if those in Albany understand mental illness in the first place.

It will be interesting to see if this is yet another of the three men in a closed room scenario — a drummed-up deal that the state Senate and Assembly will meet in the middle of the night to approve.

Let’s review the state’s track record over the years. In the 1950s, when Dr. Snow was the director at the St. Lawrence State Hospital, Albany decided it was time to put the patients out of the hospital and into various communities. It would have been great had they followed up with budgeting the funds for patient follow-ups, but they didn’t. For the first several years, police and the hospital itself received complaints of patients sleeping in city parks instead of in homes where people were being paid to care for them. And still today, patients do not receive the back-up support they need and have been promised.

Doctors tell me that patients (both medical and psychiatric) respond to better care for if they are near family or at least in north country communities where the people care and treat the patients as they should be treated.

We will have an opportunity to voice our concerns so that the Albany bureaucrats making these decisions understand the quality of service the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center has been providing for more than 100 years in the communities it serves. It’s nice to have patients out in the community when they are ready to be released, but it is sinful for the state not to give the patients the back-up support, guidance, and resources they need. On this aspect the state has failed miserably. It’s not a partisan issue; it’s government in general.

Please make plans to attend the upcoming listening forum, and encourage patients’ families and friends to attend, as well as neighborsand business owners. It takes a community to support our most vulnerable.

To attend you have to register on the Office of Mental Health website. Once on their home page go to the left and click on “Listening Tours.” If you would like to speak, check the appropriate box. Anyone from the community or any psychiatric center employee should be allowed to speak.

The Listening Tour will be held on May 15at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Unity Center, 1 Chimeny Point Drive, Ogdensburg from 10 a.m. to noon. There will be signs on the hospital grounds directing people to the proper location.

Chuck Kelly

Ogdensburg

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