North Country residents are awaiting big news from Albany. The state office of mental health is set to announce which psychiatric centers will be closed and which will be expanded. As our Barry Wygel tells us, when it comes to a decision this big, the waiting game is becoming increasingly more difficult.
ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. -- Since the state announced plans to close some of its state owned psychiatric hospitals, tensions have been high in St. Lawrence County. Home to the St. Lawrence Psych Center and its 500 jobs, residents have been fighting hard to keep the center open.
"It's very easy to forget about us, except when some issue comes up, like the psychiatric center. Then the people get all riled up and they come out and say 'this is important,'" said Pat McKeown, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
The state was originally supposed to announce which centers would be closing in late May, but due to public response, the announcement was delayed until Monday, but the state has delayed the announcement again saying in a statement, "OMH will release the Regional Centers of Excellence Plan during the week of July 8th, 2013. We appreciate your patience."
No specific time or date has been released, but county officials say they aren't losing sleep waiting for the announcement.
"I'm not in the slightest bit worried about it. I think that in their infinite wisdom, they will understand that there is nothing for us as far as mental health services north of the Thruway," said McKeown.
Officials say the St. Lawrence Psych Center, due to its strategic location, will make the perfect candidate for a new expanded regional center of excellence.
"Those 500 jobs are extremely important to the North Country. We are confident that the governor and his commissioners are going to understand that," said McKeown.
Being the only psychiatric center in the state north of the Thruway, local activists say a closure would be a major blow to the quality of health care in the area.
To read the full release from the State Office of Mental Health, visit www.omh.ny.gov.