SLPC task force member defends Sen. Ritchie
Monday, December 9, 2013 - 7:18 am

To the Editor:

As a member of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force, I have spent the last several months working closely with talented and dedicated individuals from across northern New York to help convince the state to reverse course on its flawed plan to close inpatient mental health units for adults and children in northern New York.

That’s why I was very surprised to see state Sen. Patty Ritchie singled out for criticism in the Watertown Times recently for her efforts to protect jobs and mental health care services that serve the North Country’s six-county region.

I have been proud to work alongside Ritchie on our task force’s bipartisan effort to reverse the state’s mistaken approach to mental health care. Ritchie, Assemblywoman Addie Russell, and our task force leaders, Chuck Kelly, John Pinkerton and Patrick Kelly, have assured our message has begun to be heard at Albany’s highest levels.

People may not be aware that the Office of Mental Health’s so-called plan actually keeps 85 percent of the state’s in-patient psychiatric beds. Under the proposal, the state intends to eliminate all of the adult and children’s beds north of the Thruway, shifting those resources downstate. In effect, OMH removes access to care for families in the six-county North Country region. This “experiment” to see if outpatient mental health services (that do not yet exist) can replace existing services to our most vulnerable citizens is unacceptable.

Those of us who spent our careers in the mental health field find it frightening that the state is proposing to gamble with the lives of our region’s mentally ill on an untried plan in the poorest and most rural part of our state. The sad reality is that unlike the metropolitan area, northern New York has no private or not-for-profit safety net in place if this bureaucratic scheme fails.

A group of sheriffs recently concluded that the result will be more mentally ill people in jail and prison. Sadly, it seems that the state has identified rural northern New York as an acceptable area to retreat from state government’s core responsibility, regardless of outcome.

Further compounding this injustice is the reallocation of our resources to Albany, Syracuse and Utica, in disregard of the unsurpassed level of care at SLPC.

The need is here in northern New York, the best care is here in northern New York, and we cannot permit the state to dismantle a service essential for health and safety.

John Burke


Local businesses are

win-win for all

To the Editor:

I would like to thank Ken Hebb of St. Lawrence Brewing in Canton for choosing to purchase equipment locally for his brewery.

A majority of income from this project was in turn spent locally for supplies and labor. In fact, the size of this project significantly contributed to the creation of a new job at my business.

Mr. Hebb had other options available when sourcing the equipment for the brewery, but made the choice to have the equipment fabricated right here in St. Lawrence County. Beyond keeping money in our community, this allowed for brewing tanks specifically tailored to the space available.

There are many capable businesses in our community, please consider them for your next purchase, as Mr. Hebb did for the brewery. It can be a win-win situation.

Mark Hebel, Hebel Welding & Machine

Rensselaer Falls