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Legislature holds hearing on future of St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center today in Ogdensburg

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OGDENSBURG — More than 40 people are expected to speak out against the potential loss of 65 inpatient beds at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center at a joint hearing with members of the state Senate and Assembly at Ogdensburg City Hall today.

The Office of Mental Health plans to restructure inpatient services across the state by 2017. In St. Lawrence County, child inpatient care services would be moved to Utica and adult care services to Syracuse as part of a broad plan to create 15 regional centers of excellence. The sex offender program would remain in place.

“We’ll have economic experts from the colleges and doctors with a background in mental health,” said Charles W. Kelly, chairman of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force. “We want speakers with expertise and personal accounts from patients and families, as well.”

The public hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in the City Council chambers, 330 Ford St.

“We want to make sure the services we have here — as well as the jobs — are protected,” state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said. “This hearing is an opportunity for community members to speak about the importance of the St. Lawrence Psych Center and share their stories of what the center means to them, and their loved ones.”

The Assembly and Senate Standing Committees on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Senate Standing Committee on Health will be present.

Sen. David Carlucci, chairman of the state Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, said he will report feedback from the meeting to OMH officials.

“I am here to listen,” Sen. Carlucci said before taking a tour of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Monday. “I want to learn as much as possible about how we can provide the best possible care for patients. I am also going to be considering the need for jobs and economic impacts.”

Mr. Carlucci said Ogdensburg is one of many stops on his tour of mental health centers across the state.

“We expect that geography is going to be a main concern for many,” he said. “We’re keeping an open mind, and we’re looking forward to hearing what the community has to say.”

The Office of Mental Health is expected to submit testimony in support of its plan at the meeting.

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