Trying to save psychiatric and developmental centers

By Jillian Marshall

September 13, 2013 Updated Sep 13, 2013 at 11:38 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Three major psychiatric and developmental centers are slated to close by 2016. On Friday, Assembly members held a public hearing to gather information to try to keep the doors open.

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Middletown, led the public hearing.

More than 30 people in 12 different witness panels helped examine the potential impact of the closures of the Greater Binghamton Health Center, Elmira Psychiatric Center and the Broome County Developmental Center on not only the patients, but the employees, families of patients and communities.

Most of the panels all agreed on three main issues: Moving the patients' treatments far away, jobs and the affect on crime and local jails.

It was made a point that only a small percentage of people with mental health issues become criminals.

If the centers do close, all patients from 15 neighboring counties in the Southern Tier will have to travel to Utica, Buffalo or Rochester for treatment.

The Assembly members say this is the best way to gather information from all parts of the mental health spectrum and who can be affected.

"These are a very fragile population, that require lots of care," Gunther said. "We want to make sure that number 1 they stay close to their families, that involvement is so so important."

The members of the assembly will work together to try to come up with a plan to save the facilities.

Lupardo says a collaborative Southern Tier plan is also in the works.