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April 10, 2014

Closing means more travel for patients, relatives

The pending closure of Bassett Medical Center’s inpatient psychiatric unit will mean more travel not only for patients but also for relatives, according to NAMI of Otsego County.

Bassett announced Friday that it plans to discontinue its inpatient psychiatric services in Cooperstown because of provider shortages. Bassett has notified the state Office of Mental Health and awaits approval of the plans, possibly in a week or two, officials said, and services will be maintained during the interim.

Without local inpatient psychiatric services, patients will have to go to programs or facilities in other cities, such as Binghamton or Utica, officials said.

Local law enforcement officials have raised concerns about increases in travel time that officers will face to take mental health patients to hospitals outside the area. Meanwhile, four-county mental health officials are working to implement a Mobil Crisis Assessment Team to provide early intervention services and to be ready when the Bassett unit closes.

A 2013 study by the Healthcare Association of New York State reported 58 percent of hospitals and health systems surveyed, excluding those in New York City, reported a shortage of psychiatrists, according to Bassett officials.

The Otsego County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has “real concerns” about the impact of the pending closure at Bassett, said Ginnah Howard, a spokeswoman for the local organization. While travel times to other facilities will increase for patients, police and relatives, she said, opportunities and time for family members to visit and speak with staff caring for patients will decrease.

Howard said responding to mental health crises will be addressed at a panel discussion at 7 p.m. April 22. “From Crisis to Recovery: One Step at a Time,” will be presented at the Morris Conference Center at the State University College at Oneonta, but part of the program will need to be adjusted to reflect the Bassett announcement, Howard said.

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