Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch, R-Bainbridge, said Friday he was pleased with a decision to keep the Greater Binghamton Health Center and Elmira Psychiatric Center open, despite previous plans to consolidate inpatient psychiatric care.
The two facilities had previously been set to close under a “Regional Center of Excellence” proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Office of Mental Health.
The decision to keep the two facilities open comes after what Cuomo described in a media release Thursday as “tireless efforts by state and local leaders, mental health advocates and the families of patients.”
Cuomo said in the media release that the new plan by the state Office of Mental Health is to keep beds open for the area adults and children who need them, while also expanding community services to provide better care. Part of this expansion will be a state-of-the-art Children’s Behavioral Health Center of Excellence for the Southern Tier in the Children’s Building at the Greater Binghamton Health Center.
The original plan called for closing a total of 162 adult beds and 34 children beds between the two facilities. Under the revised plan, the GBHC will maintain its 16 children beds and 60 adult beds while adding 60 new community residential beds. The Elmira Psychiatric Center will maintain its 18 children beds and 48 adult beds while adding 48 new community residential beds.
According to a media release Friday, the original plan was turned around about three weeks ago when Crouch, his colleagues, the OMH and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities met with the governor and his staff to discuss the impact closing the two facilities could have.
Crouch said in the release that losing those beds would have meant adult patients would likely have to travel to Syracuse and children to Utica to be treated — and any emergency medical staff and transportation units used would be out of the area for 4 to 6 hours and unavailable for local service.
“The Child and Adolescent Service program at The Greater Binghamton Health Center is rated No. 1 in the state,” Crouch said. “I asked, ‘Why would we close that down?’”
According to the release, by reducing one adult ward at each facility, $6 million will be freed up to be reinvested in a combined 108 new residential beds with supported housing and family care. The money would also be used for other adult services, including a new mobile crisis and support team, increased clinic capacity and expanded tele-psychiatry to improve access in rural settings.
Otsego County’s director of Community Services, Susan Matt, said residents of Otsego County and the Southern Tier will benefit significantly from the continuation of inpatient services at The Greater Binghamton Health Center.
Rina Riba, President of the Delaware County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of New York State, said the closing of A.O. Fox’s crisis center five or six years ago was hard on the area, and losing the Binghamton center would have been taken a toll, as well.
“People in crisis need a safe place to be,” Riba said. “The Greater Binghamton Health Center covers a very wide area, and it would have been a hardship to lose that.”