Updated 03/08/2013 10:06 PM
Concern Over Plan to Close Psychiatric Facilities
As part of last year's budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to close several psychiatric facilities across the state. The Monroe Developmental Center in Brighton is set to close in late December, but some mental health professionals say prematurely discharging patients is a matter of public safety.
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Members of the Public Employees Federation say they are puzzled that the same Governor who passed the NY SAFE Act, requiring all mental health professionals to report harmful behavior to the state, would allow violent mentally disabled patients back into the community before they're ready.
"Discharging these individuals into the community between now and December without a clear plan doesn't allow time for evaluation," said Randi Diantonio, Public Employees Federation.
The state plans to transfer the 90 patients from the Monroe Developmental Center to group homes in different counties throughout Western New York. Other patients will be reintegrated into the community.
"We've already heard of situations where individuals have moved and police calls have increased and their back on the streets," Diantonio said.
PEF members say many patients at MDC are registered sex offenders, some have violent tendencies and as a whole are in need of a higher level of care.
"This is about union jobs folks. Scaring the community about people at MDC, portraying this as a short-term decision, you've had eighteen months already," said one person.
PEF members that work at MDC say it has nothing to do with job security. They say the state has yet to properly train staff at other agencies or come up with a strategic plan for transferring patients.
"We need an opportunity to help train the people in the non-profits for the situations that are going to come about," said one Public Employees Federation member.
Others feel that the state needs to focus more on reintegrating the developmentally disabled into society.
"If you commit a crime and you don't have a developmental disability you go to prison and you get out, what we're talking about now is you have a developmental disability, you go to MDC and you stay."
The Public Employees Federation is asking the state to extend the December 31 deadline and allow time for public hearings.