The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Guest Column

April 12, 2014

Not the 'most perfect village' for the mentally ill

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

On April 5, in these pages, I read the sorry tale — the Bassett Medical Center’s 10-bed Inpatient Psychiatry Unit in Cooperstown is closing.

After what has been described as numerous aggressive searches for psychiatrists and physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners specializing in psychiatry, not a single provider could be induced to practice in Cooperstown, a place of such graciousness, historic importance and aesthetic appeal that it adopted the slogan “America’s Most Perfect Village,” or Oneonta, or any of the communities that the Bassett Healthcare network serves.

Without the additional providers, those treating patients in the inpatient unit were unable to manage the caseload, and the hospital decided to close the unit. Interested parties now await approval of the closing from the NYS Department of Mental Health.

It is hardly a secret in the central New York health care community that there has been a crisis-level shortage of mental health care providers. Wait lists to be seen by a psychiatrist are often months’ long. Anyone who has lived with major depression knows the agony of a protracted wait _ indeed, any wait _ for treatment. The author William Styron titled his depression memoir “Darkness Visible,” and Andrew Solomon his “The Noonday Demon.” And neither of them, we may be sure, had to wait months to see a psychiatrist, let alone be separated from family and friends by a remote hospitalization in their time of greatest need.

According to Bassett, going forward, individuals in a psychiatric crisis _ those who are unable to care for themselves, feel unsafe or are un danger of harming themselves or others _ will be sent to inpatient facilities in Binghamton, Schenectady or Utica, assuming beds will be available at those locations at such times.

All of this comes on the heels of the 50 percent reduction of the beds in the Bassett unit _ distressing in itself, to consider a region as large as this with only 10 beds for those in acute episodes _ and the threatened closure of the inpatient psychiatric unit in Binghamton.

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