St. Lawrence Psychiatric Task Force chairman says Gov. Cuomo taking 'serious look' at plans for Ogdensburg psych center
Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 5:00 pm

By JIMMY LAWTON

St. Lawrence Psychiatric Task Force Chairman Chuck Kelly says this week's meeting with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his staff assured him that Albany is taking a serious look its plan to downsize Ogdensburg's mental health facility.

"There is no doubt that they are going to go back and take a look at it," Kelly said.

The Task Force and other North Country leaders visited the capital to meet with Gov. Cuomo's staff to discuss the potential downsizing of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Tuesday.

Kelly said the initial meeting with the Governor’s staff went well, but things went event better as the meeting drew to a close.

"When we broke up and we were leaving the office, the governor came in and said he was willing to talk," he said. "I think it is very important that he showed up. He could have ducked us, but he wanted to hear what we had to say.”

Kelly said Cuomo heard from four of the North Country representatives and asked some questions himself.

The distance between other state mental health facilities and the Ogdensburg location, the impact downsizing would have on patients, the economic implications, and the quality of the hospital and its employees were just a few of the topics discussed.

"After we spoke, the governor said it does look like the north Country has been short changed in the plan," he said.

While the acknowledgement was nice and the meeting went well, Kelly said there is still plenty of work to be done.

"It was very promising, but no promises were made," Kelly said. "Everyone was positive, polite and professional and I believe they were very receptive of our input," he said.

Kelly said all of the members who attended the meeting were “on top of their game.” He said Cuomo and his staff understood some of the differences between the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center and other institutions slated for downsizing.

Although Kelly was pleased with the meeting, he is already more concerned with the future.

“We want the same thing now that we have always wanted. We want children’s beds to stay and we want the adult beds to stay. If they leave, then we haven’t gained anything,” Kelly said.