Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center to See Layoffs, Ward Closings
70 to 100 Jobs to be Affected
By Elizabeth Cooper Utica Observer-Dispatch February 10, 2012
Oneida County Mental Health officials expressed concern Wednesday over planned reductions to inpatient services at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center.
Cuts handed down by the state Office of Mental Health Tuesday mean that between 35 and 40 people may be transferred from the Psychiatric Center’s inpatient wards to outpatient facilities.
“These are very, very sick people, and I am concerned about them coping in the community,” county Mental Health Commissioner Linda Nelson said. “We can assimilate them, but is it the best level of care for them?”
Office of Mental Health spokeswoman Leesa Rademacher could not be reached to respond to Nelson’s concerns, and did not respond to emailed questions about the proposed transfer to outpatient care.
Under the plan, two wards at Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center will be shuttered and a third ward, including about 24 patients, will be moved to Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse.
This is the end of inpatient adult psychiatric services at the psychiatric center in West Utica. But existing state-operated residential non-inpatient services will remain, along with other outpatient services.
So will an inpatient unit for Children and Youth, Rademacher said earlier Wednesday.
About 100 jobs are being affected, though will be moved to Hutchings. After the cuts, about 200 people still will work at the facility, area officials said.
The changes – which are part of changes to the state’s mental health system made in the 2011-12 state budget – will go into effect after at least 30 days, but preparations will begin immediately.
“As part of becoming more efficient in delivering services in the 2011-2012 budget, OMH eliminated up to 600 surplus beds from its statewide psychiatric inpatient system,” Rademacher said.
She said her agency was able to minimize the loss of filled staff positions by first reducing the workforce through attrition and retirements.
Area officials blindsided
Local officials said they had been caught off guard by the cuts and still were looking for answers Wednesday afternoon.
“Utica is an area that is underserved in terms of mental health treatment,” Brindisi said. “This is only going to exacerbate the problem.”
And State Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, said he doesn’t like the job losses associated with the plan.
“Our community is again being asked to allow another exodus of public jobs to other areas of the state,” he said in a release.
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said he has a slew of concerns over treatment, jobs and new costs to the county.
“This one just runs the gamut,” he said of the problems the move could cause.
Under the law, the county may have to pay for the transport of some mentally ill people to Syracuse, he said.
Nelson said she will be meeting with officials from the state and the Psychiatric Center to discuss the transition.
The psychiatric center, which was opened in 1843, has a long history in the heart of West Utica.
The massive stone Greek Revival building that was once its centerpiece now stands empty on Court Street. The current inpatient facility is at the opposite end of the campus, on Noyes Street.
Not the only one
Utica’s Psychiatric Center is not the only one getting hit by cuts this week, the Office of Mental Health website shows.
Bronx Psychiatric Center, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, and Sagamore Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills also are seeing cuts or other changes.
Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn is being closed entirely.
In its 2011-12 budget, the state made 5 percent cuts to its sprawling $3.5 billion mental health system.
Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association in New York State, said the state has more psychiatric centers than any other in the nation and the emphasis on community-based alternatives is a positive.
“Clearly there is a need for a small cadre of people to be hospitalized,” he said.
Liebman also said he would like to see funds saved by the reductions go toward community-based programs.