Removing youth services at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will hurt kids' treatment, education, says PEFC leader
Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 10:30 am

To the Editor:

What about the Children?

I have served as a teacher in the Children and Youth Program at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center since 1991. Throughout the years, I have participated in a multidisciplinary team approach to helping the children we serve.

This approach has been the foundation that has allowed for children to resume their lives in a safe community, with nurturing support systems, once discharged from hospital care.

At times, it has been challenging to set children up for success due, in part, to the barriers related to diminishing resources for the families, schools, and community support systems.

Nonetheless, it has always been the ultimate goal of the inpatient mental health providers at SLPC to stabilize children and to provide for a smooth transition home when their mental health status has improved.

It is no secret that the family and the community is best suited to take on the care of its young children when they are provided with adequate support systems.

Such support systems need to be in place to assist, particularly when lack of knowledge and family hardships would otherwise disadvantage children with ongoing mental health needs. At SLPC, the length of stay of children in our program has diminished significantly throughout the years.

This has been due to forces related to managed care guidelines as well as the recognition that children resuming their lives in non-institutional settings is preferable to lengthy inpatient hospitalizations. That being said, there are times when circumstances require that children access inpatient mental health treatment.

When needed, it is preferable that treatment be provided in a child’s own community, around his/her own school, his/her own family, and his/her own individualized support systems. The Office of Mental Health has been promoting health care services in the community and SLPC is, in fact, part of the North Country’s community.

One of the most integral elements of the recovery model for children who receive services at the Children and Youth Unit of SLPC is that the children return to their home schools and greater community once discharged.

At SLPC, that transition begins on day one. The children attend a full day of educational programming with certified teachers who make every effort to assure that the children’s educational needs are met.

This includes an interview with the patient, the administration of academic testing (if indicated), and communication with home school administrators, counselors, Committee on Special Education Chairpersons, etc.

With many years of experience and relationship building, the school districts and the Education Department at SLPC have developed their own level of expertise in mental health care.

Joining forces to meet the needs of children with mental health challenges has greatly advantaged the children who have been hospitalized at SLPC. The multidisciplinary teams at the school district level, working in concert with the Treatment Teams at Children and Youth SLPC, have contributed much to encourage the health and educational well-being of students with mental health needs.

Throughout the years, the level of coordination has been fine-tuned to assure that hospitalized children receive a tailored educational program. Despite being hospitalized, students have been able to receive full attendance credit, full academic credit, and the opportunity to take state exams when hospitalized. It is a proud system that supports the continued stability of children once discharged from their inpatient stay.

The children who receive mental health treatment are entitled to a sound education system that is supported in the community and passes the test of time. This educational treatment is provided at SLPC Children and Youth. Treatment close to home will assure that any disruption to our children’s educational lives is kept to a minimum while they recover from mental health challenges.

When asked to consider Regional Centers of Excellence as a viable plan, consider our community, our school, and our hospital. St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is our “Center of Excellence” because we are accessible and work with our community every day.

Children in the North Country deserve professionally delivered state supported services in their communities.

What about the children?

Virginia E. Davey,

Public Employee Federation Council Leader

St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center