State, local officials meet on future of St. Lawrence Psych Center

New York State Office of Mental Health Acting Commissioner Kristin Woodlock and her team listening to speakers from the North Country at today's meeting at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. Photo: Julie Grant

New York State Office of Mental Health Acting Commissioner Kristin Woodlock and her team listening to speakers from the North Country at today’s meeting at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg. Photo: Julie Grant

Reporter Julie Grant was in Ogdensburg today at a meeting at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center about its future. Julie’s working on a story for tomorrow morning’s 8 O’clock Hour, but she took a moment out to give me some information about what went on (here’s the Watertown Daily Times’ coverage of today’s meeting, FYI.)

The meeting was “a packed house” — Julie was told at the door that 302 people had registered to attend, and more had shown up. At the meeting, Kristin Woodlock, acting commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, talked about how New York’s health care system is moving toward a “managed care” model, and behavioral health has to move along with it.

She said right now New York has 24 psychiatric hospitals, which is many more than average (for comparison’s sake, Texas has eight, California has five, and New Jersey has four.) She said our state has to move toward that model with less inpatient and more community-based care (questions about quality of care were raised here.)

OMH has said (and Woodlock repeated) that it’s working at creating what are called “Regional Centers of Excellence”, which “emphasiz[e] outpatient care over more costly inpatient treatment [and] could result in some psychiatric hospital closures.

North Country leaders including State Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblywoman Addie Russell were at the meeting, making arguments that the center should stay open not only because it provides more than 500 jobs, but because people who need treatment can’t always travel, say, to Syracuse, for mental health care, and in an inpatient situation it’s tough for family and friends to visit them.

The state expects to decide as soon as next week which mental health hospitals it’s going to close. Again, Julie will have more in the morning on this story, and we’ll be following it as it moves forward.

 

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