The state is proposing to allocate $72 million to establish community hubs to replace mental-health hospitals that are set to close in the Southern Tier and across the state, advocates said yesterday.
The money would be used to expand community services and save the hundreds of jobs that could be at risk when the hospitals close next year, according to draft plans developed by the state Office of Mental Health.
Mental-health advocates backed the proposal released last week, and job losses are not expected as the state consolidates its 24 mental hospitals into 15 regional centers over three years.
“Too often, states close things and then try to build up services,” said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the state Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. “This is a commitment to pre-investing and putting up services in advance of downsizing.”
Southern Tier lawmakers have been battling to keep open the Greater Binghamton Health Center, the Elmira Psychiatric Center and the Broome Developmental Center.
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, introduced legislation last month in the Senate that would postpone any closures until April 2015.
Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo, D-Endwell, also introduced similar legislation in the Assembly. “While I appreciate that additional resources are earmarked for outpatient services, it is inconceivable that there will be no inpatient beds in the entire Southern Tier,” said Lupardo.
Libous said Monday that he supports, in theory, the state’s proposal. But too often, he said, the state aid isn’t tied to patient care as originally outlined. He said a similar plan failed in the early 1990s.
“It was designed to have the money follow the patient in the community. Unfortunately, it never happened,” Libous described. “The money stayed as a savings to the state coffers.”