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April 17, 2014

Bassett : No date yet for psychiatric unit's closure

No date has been announced for the closure of the inpatient psychiatric unit at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.

Bassett is completing necessary paperwork and awaiting a response from the state Office of Mental Health, Bassett spokeswoman Karen Huxtable said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, will have a meeting today about the pending closure. Jeff Bishop, spokesman for the senator, refused to identify who would be attending the session, which he said is closed.

Without local inpatient psychiatric services, patients and their families will have to go to facilities in cities such as Binghamton or Utica, officials said. Local police, mental health professionals, advocates for services and others have expressed concern about accessibility to care and demands on resources.

On April 7, the state Office of Mental Health received an application from Bassett to close its inpatient psychiatric unit, according to Ben Rosen, director of public information. OMH regulations require review of the application, he said in an email last week.

“OMH is working closely with Bassett, its service recipients, the affected counties, other hospital and community providers to ensure adequate inpatient capacity and access in the region,” Rosen said.

In 2013, there were 746 admissions to the psychiatric inpatient unit, Huxtable said, and 13,662 outpatient visits. Numbers haven’t declined, she said.

Bassett announced April 4 that the 10-bed unit was closing, a step resulting from a national shortage of psychiatrists and support staff. The center reduced the unit from 20 beds last year.

Bassett has been working for months on options to keep the inpatient unit open but isn’t able to sustain inpatient services without enough psychiatrists, Huxtable said.

Bassett has an inpatient psychiatry unit and a crisis psychiatric center as well as outpatient psychiatry services, Huxtable said, and the center’s psychiatrists work in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The center has 5.1 full-time equivalent psychiatrists, of which two are child psychiatrists, she said, and a part-time psychiatric nurse practitioner.

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