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April 10, 2014

Bassett to close psychiatric unit

Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown will close its 10-bed inpatient psychiatric unit, a step resulting from a national shortage of psychiatrists and support staff willing to work in rural areas, officials said Friday. 

Plans are in the works for a local “Mobil Crisis Assessment Team” to be ready when the Bassett unit closes, said Otsego County community services director Susan Matt. The designated team, plus other services, are intended to provide support to patients within the community and reduce needs for hospitalization, she said.

Matt said mental health care agency officials from the state and four-county area, among other organizations, have been meeting since last autumn to arrange for the MCAT program and other provisions, ranging from peer counselors to a “crisis apartment” for adults. Officials met Friday, she said, and will meet Tuesday to continue discussing implementation of plans.

However, on Friday, the pending closure unit prompted concerns among law enforcement officials about increased demands from a rising number of mental health calls.

Oneonta Police Chief Dennis Nayor alerted the mayor and city manager that transporting patients to facilities outside the area, such as to Binghamton or Utica, will create “tremendous strain on our manpower and functioning,” Nayor said in a memorandum Friday.

“Some transports will require two officers and some days we may have to make more than one trip,” Nayor wrote. “We will obviously do the best we can to deal with the situation, but with the huge increase in mental health issues locally, this is the absolute last thing we need.”

The Oneonta Police Department has responded to 56 calls this year regarding mental health services, according to Lt. Douglas Brenner. Those cases resulted in 22 transports to Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, which is about two transports per week, he said.

In 2013, the department responded to 225 calls for service and transported patients to Bassett 77 times, said Brenner, who wrote to Nayor that he would contact Matt about services and options.

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