Ever since the state announced plans to close the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center and transfer some of its services to other facilities, there has been a very vocal group resisting the move. Now, those activists are writing petitions and using area representatives to plea with the governor and the Office of Mental Health. And as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, if they don't get answers from Albany, they plan to take their efforts to the next level.
UTICA, N.Y -- Utica residents and legislators have fought against the transfer and closure of Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center's services to Hutchings Psychiatric in Syracuse since it was announced as a cost saving measure in February.
Legislators and residents announced their counter measures against the move at a meeting Monday night.
Senator Joseph Griffo's Representative Ryan Aguam said, "This isn't over yet, it's going to keep lingering until the community can get a definite resolution."
So far, they say their cries have gone ignored.
Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and Senator Joseph Griffo are set to deliver the first batch of petitions with more than 3,000 signatures against the closure.
If that doesn't yield answers from the state, they could be looking at more drastic measures.
Oneida County Legislator Harmony Speciale admitted they could be looking "to get a state appointed attorney to push this even further, to turn around his decision and get the patients back where they belong, keep the jobs there."
In other words, they could be looking to sue. They say the loss to the community is unacceptable.
Some of the employees and patients at Mohawk Valley Psych are saying that if their care and jobs are moved to Syracuse, they won't go with it.
"That's something that I cannot do, I just recently bought a house three years ago, you know. And I can't just up and move," said Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center employee Deborah Nasve.
Activists are also asking if this is in patients' best interests.
"I can't imagine going to a strange place. I know I'd decompensate to like -- unreal," Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center outpatient Sherrie Green said.
Though the state is already moving patients and services, Uticans are hopeful for a turnaround.
"It's not ending here. They're convinced that if we can keep making a case for it that someone's got to listen to us," Aguam said of Senator Griffo and Assemblyman Brindisi.
Some of the legislators are calling the move political, citing a $17.5 million construction project scheduled at Hutchings that overshadows any savings.
It remains unclear if the state will respond to their requests for a cost-savings analysis or any other requests.
Utica's Common Council adopted a resolution against the facility's closure last Wednesday.
The Oneida County Legislature is scheduled to vote on a similar resolution this week.