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Local News

September 28, 2013

N.Y. eyes overhaul of mental health care

The state plans to consolidate inpatient psychiatric care in an overhaul that aims to deliver more mental health services at the community level. 

But the regional impact is both unclear and evolving. A team, including local representatives, is working to identify resources and needs to provide more services to consumers closer to home. 

Improved treatment at the community level means fewer patients would need hospitalized care, according to the state Office of Mental Health Regional Centers of Excellence plan, which was presented in July. Under the OMH proposal, the state’s 24 psychiatric centers will be consolidated into 15 regional centers. 

The state’s treatment of mental illness is a hospital system based on a business model developed in the 1840s, OMH officials said. The goal of the plan is to move from the hospital system to a network of services and supports provided by state staff in communities. 

The three-year implementation would start in July and be complete in 2017. 

As state legislative committees hold hearings, two local lawmakers are monitoring developments.  

Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, R-Bainbridge, opposes the plan’s move to close inpatient services at the Greater Binghamton Health Center, which provides outpatient and inpatient services to children and adults who are mentally ill. 

“The plan to provide only outpatient and other services to patients in the Southern Tier is simply not enough,” Crouch said in a statement earlier this month. Families would have to travel to Syracuse or Utica for inpatient services under the proposal, which doesn’t “hold muster” given GBHC’s outstanding ranking, he said. 

The governor must seek legislative approval of funding before the plan can be implemented, Crouch said. The assemblyman pledged to work with OMH and the governor on an alternative that would benefit affected New Yorkers in the plan’s Empire Upstate Regional Center for Excellence area, which includes Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties. 

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