Broome County Mental Health Clinic to close

By Matt Porter

May 27, 2014 Updated May 27, 2014 at 6:36 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The Broome County Mental Health Clinic will close its doors after helping the mentally ill for more than 40 years.

Broome County Mental Health Commissioner Arthur Johnson said running the clinic didn't become feasible after Medicaid reimbursement changes for government health facilities lowered the clinic's revenue significantly.

"I saw the handwriting on the wall when the state started changing how Medicaid paid for programming," Johnson said.

The changes began in 2012, but took full effect last year in 2013.

It was the final nail in the coffin for a clinic that has shrunk from 20 full-time social workers to three full-time and one part-time.

Johnson said while the county had the first clinic, four other larger outpatient units, public and private, have emerged.

"Even though we have shrunk substantially by over two-thirds," he said, "These other providers have grown more than that."

The clinic only serves 550 outpatient children and adults, while the other four facilities serve more than 3,000 combined.

The Greater Binghamton Health Center which avoided its own closure serves 614 adults and 326 children.

UHS serves around 700 outpatient, and Lourdes serves about 500 children.

The Family and Children's Society also serves 819 outpatients.

He said no date or timetable has been drawn up regarding the closure. Johnson said BCMH will ensure every patient has someplace to go for treatment.

"We're not going to leave anybody, especially people who need medication," Johnson said. "We're not going to close the street to anyone in that position."

Keith Leahey, executive director of the Mental Health Association of the Southern Tier, said the closure of places like the BCMH clinic are a result of decades of reduced funding for state facilities.

He never thought the county facility would come up for closure.

"It's been a fixture," Leahey said. "It just never dawned on me that the county clinic would close."

While he said recently there is renewed interest on the federal level, the new initiatives probably won't save the county facility.

"There are some promising things that are out there," Leahey said, "However, they're not happening quick enough."

When the clinic closes, clinicians will have to find jobs outside the county government while some clerical positions may be transferred.

Democrats in the county legislature oppose the closure, and will announce a plan to keep the county clinic open next week.