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Transportation arranged for mentally ill day programs in St. Lawrence County

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CANTON - The St. Lawrence County Community Services Board has arranged for alternative transportation through the end of the year for the mentally ill to attend day treatment programs.

Transportation to programs offered by Step-by-Step and Seaway House in Ogdensburg were in jeopardy after the state told the county Community Development Program earlier this year that it no longer would reimburse it for the cost through Medicaid.

The county Community Services Department, which provides chemical dependency and mental health services, procured $62,000 through the state Office of Mental Health on top of the $112,000 it already provided to help CDP get through the year. But that money was not enough for the agency’s costs, CDP Executive Director Norma S. Cary said.

CDP determined it could not afford to provide the busing, and its last day providing the service was Friday .

The agency laid off two bus drivers. Two other drivers found other work, Ms. Cary said.

“We’re looking at doing something else with the bus garage,” she said. “We’re exploring other possibilities.”

Community Services used the additional money from OMH to make arrangements with St. Lawrence County NYSARC, Step-by-Step and Seaway House to provide the transportation without interruption for the rest of the year.

“The providers are speaking very positively about the transition,” Community Services Director Angela M. Doe said. “We were able to collaborate and make this work.”

Community Services will put out a request for proposals for 2015, Ms. Doe said.

“We should have a new provider by 2015, or potentially the same one,” she said.

Although unfortunate for CDP, the change may make for more efficient transportation in the county and help the mentally ill develop more life skills by being on a bus that has a diversity of riders, Ms. Doe said.

CDP, which still will maintain a bus garage for Head Start, will be among those considering the request for proposals.

“We would look at it,” Ms. Cary said. “If there was not more money than this year, we could not possibly do it.”

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