Updated 04/27/2012 07:03 PM
Hundreds rally to save psych center
It's a scene that's becoming familiar to Utica: Workers rallying to save their jobs. Last summer, it was employees from Oneida Correctional Facility on the march. Friday, employees from the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center gathered. Sarah Blazonis reports.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- It was hard for anyone in downtown Utica Friday to ignore the crowd gathered in front of the State Office Building, but their message was for officials in Albany regarding the plan to close the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center.
"We don't feel this was a well thought-out plan. There was no community involvement," said Jeanette St. Mary, an intensive case manager at MVPC and Public Employees Federation council leader.
St. Mary says her job of 22 years is not in danger. She says her main concern is for the patients who might be transferred to Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse.
"To have to have the extra burden of going to a community they're not familiar with and their families and loved ones having to travel the extra distance, we don't feel is fair," said St. Mary.
Former patient Diane Hunt says her husband is in treatment at the center.
"If he gets sent out there, I'm hoping for the best, but we shouldn't have to hope for the best. We should be able to get the best treatment at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center," said Hunt.
Also at stake: 140 jobs, a tough blow for an area already hard hit by state cuts.
"You hear about the correctional facility -- 600 people. You hear about the psych center -- 150 people. It's got to stop," Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi told workers at the rally.
State legislators say they've yet to receive answers from the state about how closing the facility will save money.
Union leaders also say the plan makes no financial sense, and measures need to be taken to protect patients.
"At some point, the state needs to provide a safety net for these individuals. Otherwise, they'll be placed in the street and they'll become victims of violence," said Michael Patterson, the CSEA local president for MVPC.
Though other groups have rallied here before with similar support from the public, they were unable to change minds in Albany. This group continues to hope for a different outcome.
Workers at the rally say patients are already in the process of being moved to Hutchings. Still, State Senator Joseph Griffo and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi told them they would continue to try to work with governor's office and the State Office of Mental Health to reverse the decision.