To the Editor:
As a St. Lawrence County Legislator, I’m concerned about the impact closing inpatient care services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will have, not only on my constituents in Massena, but also in St. Lawrence County and throughout the North Country.
The closing of inpatient care at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will result in a mental health services system in the North Country that will be inadequate to serve our needs. The removal of inpatient beds from the SLPC will leave this region with less robust and complete mental health services than every other part of the state. This is not in the best interests of the children, adults and families of the communities all across northern New York and it is not acceptable.
Inpatient care services are an essential component of the continuum of care necessary to adequately and completely provide mental health services. The already overburdened outpatient care services in this area are strengthened and supported by the proximate access to inpatient care offered at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Removing access to inpatient hospital beds in our region will negatively impact the total quality of mental services care offered, including outpatient care services.
Additionally, with the Office of Mental Health’s plan, it will be extremely difficult, and in many cases not possible, for families to have access to their loved ones while they are being treated for mental illness. Consider those in a community like Massena who will have to travel over three hours to the Office of Mental Health’s new regional centers of excellence, which, despite their name, will be located out of our region. This places unfair burdens on residents of the North Country, which other areas of the state will not face. Again, this is not fair and it is not acceptable. Whether with adults or children, the importance of family members being able to participate and support the treatment being offered in a psychiatric hospital cannot be overstated, and should not be an option taken away from us.
Until the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Regional Centers of Excellence plan is amended to include inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, it will remain incomplete and inadequate.
Gregory M. Paquin
Massena, St. Lawrence County Legislator, District 14