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Psychiatric Center Task Force looks to expand as fight continues to save inpatient services

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OGDENSBURG — The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force is looking to expand as it digs in to fight the closure of adult and youth inpatient services in Ogdensburg.

Mayor William D. Nelson said he will appoint six or seven new members to the task force this week.

The task force now includes Mr. Nelson, St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency CEO Patrick J. Kelly, County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire, City Manager John M. Pinkerton, County Community Services Director Angela M. Doe and Chairman Charles W. Kelly, Ogdensburg.

“I’d like to have some business leaders, some members of the community with a direct association with mental health,” Mr. Nelson said. “Just someone who is willing to roll up their shirtsleeves and jump in and get things done.”

Mr. Kelly said getting more people involved on the task force will “help the group energize and broaden out. They’ll be able to think about things we haven’t.”

The next step for the task force is to personalize the issue, Mr. Kelly said.

“We want (to hear from) people with personal stories about their relationship with the psych center,” he said. Anyone with a story about the Psychiatric Center should send it to Mr. Kelly or Mr. Pinkerton at City Hall.

“This is part of the fiber of our community,” Mr. Kelly said, noting the hospital’s more than 120-year history in the city. “You’d be hard pressed to go to any block in the city of Ogdensburg and not find someone who works there or has family that works there.”

Mr. Kelly said the plan is to gather personal stories and send them to Albany to help make the case for keeping the inpatient services local. The plan put forward by the state Office of Mental Health is to move adult inpatient services to Syracuse and child services to Utica.

“We want to start showing the human impact of the closure of this facility. Decisions are made in Albany,” Mr. Nelson said, “but really right here in Ogdensburg it’s the humans that are impacted.”

Mr. Nelson said the task force will provide the backbone of the organization to fight the closure, but it will need support from all over the north country.

“It’s going to be an entire north country effort,” Mr. Nelson said. “We’re looking for people across the six-county region to help us in the fight.”

The Psychiatric Center serves people in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Franklin, Essex, Lewis and Clinton counties.

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