OGDENSBURG -- State Senator Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton) is urging Albany officials to extend next week’s “listening session” on the future of St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.
In a letter sent to the state’s acting mental health commissioner, Ritchie objected to a two-hour time limit for next week’s, set from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 15 at the facility’s Unity Center, when similar sessions elsewhere were allotted more time.
“With more than 100 local residents already signed up to attend, I am concerned that the compressed time frame won’t be sufficient to allow state officials to fully gauge the community’s support for the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center,” Ritchie said.
The Ogdensburg session is the last of 12 being held across the state to collect the public’s comments on a plan that could result in consolidation and reduced services at some of the state’s mental health facilities.
The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is the only full-service mental health facility north of the Thruway, employing over 500 local residents.
With the exception of the Ogdensburg hospital, all of the sessions are scheduled to stretch at least two and a half hours. The Orangeburg, Binghamton, Rochester, Buffalo, Long Island and New York City visits were each three hours. And the Office of Mental Health scheduled two sessions each in Albany and Syracuse.
Senator Ritchie also said she was concerned that holding the Ogdensburg session in the middle of the workday might suppress public turnout. Sessions in some other communities were held after regular working hours.
Ritchie says she has been working with local community leaders to try to increase public awareness of the event. Toward that end, she convened a meeting last week in her office to strategize on ways to boost participation.
Ritchie, who represents the 48th Senate District including northwestern St. Lawrence County, is urging community members to register online to attend the session, at http://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/excellence/registration.html
A copy of Ritchie’s letter to the commissioner can be found at http://www.scribd.com/doc/139730523/Letter-to-Acting-Comm-Woodcock