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Sheriffs, county legislators plan meeting to prepare plan to save inpatient care at psychiatric center

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County legislators and sheriffs from St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Franklin, Essex, Lewis and Clinton Counties are working to organize a meeting in order to better coordinate their efforts to keep inpatient care facilities at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.

The state Office of Mental Health has proposed sending inpatient care services downstate.

Patrick J. Kelly, CEO of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency and an organizer of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force, said, “I think people understand that the costs [of mental health care] are being shifted from inpatient care to county jails.”

St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chair Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, said he has reached out to his colleagues in other counties and they are in the middle of attempting to set up a meeting date.

Mr. Putney said each of the county legislative chairs have agreed to a meeting in principle, but the process of arraigning a time and date where they can hold a face-to-face is slow going.

Charles “Chuck” W. Kelly, chair of the Psychiatric Center Task Force, said county Sheriff Kevin M. Wells is working on gathering together the other sheriffs in the six-county region to join him at the meeting.

Mr. Kelly said Mr. Wells was enthusiastic about the meeting.

Mr. Wells could not be reached for this story.

Previously Mr. Wells said closing inpatient care at the psychiatric center would likely result in increased costs at county jails as people who should be receiving treatment get caught up in the criminal justice system.

Ogdensburg City Manager John M. Pinkerton, an organizer of the Psychiatric Center Task Force, said a tentative meeting date that would work for both the sheriffs and legislators had been set, but nothing is set in stone.

The Psychiatric Center Task Force is also hoping to meet with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in order to plead their case directly to him. A letter was sent in September requesting the meeting but Mr. Cuomo has yet to respond.

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