Months of community rallies and pressure by local officials finally paid off, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday the state has changed its plans to eliminate inpatient services at the Elmira Psychiatric Center.
The state's Office of Mental Health Services announced plans in July to reduce the 24 inpatient facilities in the system to 15 regional hospitals. Some of the closed facilities, including the Elmira Psych Center, were to become community centers offering outpatient care only.
It was feared the move - part of a restructuring of the state's mental health system - would have resulted in the loss of roughly 200 of the 350 jobs at the Elmira Psych Center and reduced vital services available locally. Area residents needing inpatient care would have gone to Buffalo or Utica under the plan.
Local elected officials doggedly pressured Cuomo this summer and fall. There were also several community rallies and marches, along with a petition drive.
In recent weeks, Cuomo reviewed the Office of Mental Health Services plan and agreed to modify the plan.
He informed local officials – including state Sen. Tom O'Mara, R-Big Flats, Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, and Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli - of his decision in a videoconference Thursday afternoon.
Inpatient services will still be reduced at the Elmira Psych Center, however, Cuomo told them.
The number of beds for adult patients will be reduced from 72 to 48, but all 18 beds for children in the facility will be kept in place, Santulli said. Essentially, the Psych Center will be losing one of its adult wards.
However, to make up for the loss, Cuomo told officials there are preliminary plans for the state to provide support for other local agencies that offer mental health care to provide extra beds at their facilities. Those plans haven't been fully developed yet, though.
"We're very pleased," Santulli said. "The bottom line is, for the most part, the Elmira Psych Center has been preserved."
"It's nice to have the hard work this whole community went through to send a message to Albany pay off," he said.
O'Mara said it would have been "unacceptable" to make local mental health patients and their families travel three hours to Buffalo or Utica.
Palmesano credited Cuomo for being willing to listen and being open to changing the state's plans.
"It was absolutely critical that inpatient services remain available locally," said Palmesano, noting that the Elmira Psych Center served an 11-county radius. "The residents of the Southern Tier pay taxes too, and they should be entitled to the same services."
Part of the case made to Cuomo was the high level of service provided at the Elmira Psych Center, as reflected by many of the measures used by the state to rank its facilities, Palmesano added.
Page 2 of 2 - Cuomo also decided to keep a reduced number of inpatient beds at similar facilities in Binghamton and the North Country, which had been also been slated for closure, Palmesano said.
O'Mara and Palmesano said they'll continue fighting to prevent the closure of the Monterey Shock Incarceration Facility in Schuyler County. The shock camp is set to close in July 2014 as part of a downsizing of the state's corrections system.