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Local News

April 18, 2014

Seward hosts talk on closure of psych unit

Streamlining transportation and finding funding are among steps ahead to meet the “wide-ranging consequences” of Bassett Medical Center’s decision to close its psychiatric inpatient unit, a state lawmaker said Thursday.

“Mental health needs are diverse, complex, highly specialized, and can often result in a crisis situation — proper treatment can be the difference between life and death,” state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said in a media release after a meeting he convened with state, county, local, hospital and college officials.

“We need to ensure that appropriate resources are available, and that those in need are able to access suitable, timely care,” Seward said. 

Bassett’s application to close its 10-bed unit in Cooperstown is pending with the state Office of Mental Health. Citing a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists and challenges recruiting to the area, Bassett announced April 4 that its unit would close but outpatient services would continue.

News about the closure raised concerns among law enforcement, elected and health care officials about lack of local crisis services, the need to travel to facilities to Binghamton, Utica or elsewhere for inpatient care and related issues. 

Bassett officials, state Office of Mental Health representatives, Oneonta and Otsego County elected leaders, college administrators and local health care providers met Thursday with Seward. 

Susan Matt, Otsego County’s director of community services, said newly proposed ideas are emerging as issues are spotlighted. The meeting Thursday was good, she said.

“We are forging a new way to do this,’’ Matt said. “Everyone is working toward making it work the best we can make it work.”

Area county officials are working to establish a Mobile Crisis Assessment Team to help identify mental health needs, provide early intervention to decrease the number of crisis cases. 

“As we revise the service model in Otsego County, and the surrounding region, it is imperative that we maximize our resources and evolve to deliver services through new channels,” Seward said. “I am committed to securing any available state dollars to help implement this transformation.”

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