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SLPC Task Force requests letters supporting inpatient psychiatric care

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OGDENSBURG - St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force members are hoping to capitalize on their momentum following Tuesday’s face-to-face meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo where they appealed to him to keep inpatient services open in Ogdensburg.

The task force is asking as many community members as possible to write to the governor urging him to keep the facility open.

The state Office of Mental Health has proposed closing inpatient mental health facilities at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, instead sending patients to facilities downstate. The state is consolidating services into regional “centers of excellence.” A proposed Central New York Center of Excellence will include the north country.

Task force Chairman Charles “Chuck” W. Kelly wants north country residents to write personal letters to the governor thanking him for hearing the arguments in favor of keeping inpatient facilities local and detailing the connection the community has with the center.

“We want individual letters, from the heart,” Mr. Kelly said. “I’m going to sit down and write one myself tonight.”

Mr. Kelly said, “I would encourage families who have had loved ones receive care there, and also employees to write letters and make their personal feelings known. That’s very important at this point in the effort to keep the institution open. It would seem from its history that it would make an ideal Center of Excellence.”

The task force hopes to drive home a message that the state needs at least one inpatient center north of Syracuse to treat people with serious mental illnesses. Under the current plan by the OMH the closest inpatient facilities will be in Syracuse, for adults, and Utica, for children.

“Inpatient care at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center has been outstanding for more than 123 years,” Mr. Kelly said. “It’s also been a great employer for that many years. The care that’s given there has been outstanding through three or four generations of north country people working at the institution.”

Mr. Kelly said the task force is taking a different tack than other advocacy groups across the state.

Instead of attacking the governor, Mr. Kelly said, the task force is “taking the high road.

“We’re not knocking the governor,” he said. “The task force, over the last six months, has taken every step to engage everybody that we can engage to help support this worthy cause of keeping [the center] open.”

The task force has been working in opposition to the OMH plan since the spring when it was first organized by Ogdensburg Mayor William D. Nelson.

Letters can be addressed to Mr. Cuomo at the New York State Capitol Building, Albany, N.Y., 12224.

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