By JIMMY LAWTON
Representatives at Clarkson and St. Lawrence universities say they would increase collaboration with the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg if it became a regional center of excellence.
St. Lawrence University Coordinator of Regional Development Ben Dixon said the school already works with SLPC and that several graduates are currently employed there. He spoke at a “listening tour” last week conducted by the state Office of Mental Health to gather public input before announcing possible closures of state psychiatric hospitals.
Dixon said St. Lawrence County has four colleges in a close proximity to the center and five others throughout the North Country that could help transform the facility into a regional center of excellence.
"We are very well poised to contribute here," he said. At the meeting. OMH Commissioner Kristin Woodlock announced that the state wants to establish regional centers of excellence and move toward outpatient care in a new strategic plan that many fear would close SLPC, one of the areas largest employers.
"Hearing your comments I certainly envision a center of excellence here at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center," Dixon said.
Clarkson University Provost Charles "Chuck" Thorpe also spoke at the meeting.
He said Clarkson is interested in expanding its collaboration with center. He said Clarkson's physician's assistant students gain valuable hand-on experience at the facility. "This center is one that we rotate our students through," he said.
Thorpe said psychology students also work with the center as part of their research.
He said the Clarkson University Board of Directors is also in the final stages of approving an occupational therapy curriculum, which would also use the facility for field study.
While Woodlock did not say the state planned to close any facilities, she noted that New York has 24 state-owned facilities serving 18 million people, compared to California’s five facilities serving 37 million people.
She also said that a strategic plan would be released this week and that if any facilities closed, they would need a one year notice.