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April 17, 2014

No date yet for closure of Bassett inpatient pysch unit

By Denise Richardson Staff Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — No date has been announced for the closure of the inpatient psychiatric unit at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.

Bassett is completing necessary paperwork and awaiting a response from the state Office of Mental Health, Bassett spokeswoman Karen Huxtable said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, state Sen. James Seward will have a meeting today about the pending closure. Jeff Bishop, spokesman for the senator, refused to identify who would be attending the session, which he said is closed.

Without local inpatient psychiatric services, patients and their families will have to go to facilities in cities such as Binghamton or Utica, officials said. Local police, mental health professionals, advocates for services and others have expressed concern about accessibility to care and demands on resources.

On April 7, the state Office of Mental Health received an application from Bassett to close its inpatient psychiatric unit, according to Ben Rosen, director of public information. OMH regulations require review of the application, he said in an email last week.

“OMH is working closely with Bassett, its service recipients, the affected counties, other hospital and community providers to ensure adequate inpatient capacity and access in the region,” Rosen said.

In 2013, there were 746 admissions to the psychiatric inpatient unit, Huxtable said, and 13,662 outpatient visits. Numbers haven’t declined, she said.

Bassett announced April 4 that the 10-bed unit was closing, a step resulting from a national shortage of psychiatrists and support staff. The center reduced the unit from 20 beds last year.

Bassett has been working for months on options to keep the inpatient unit open but isn’t able to sustain inpatient services without enough psychiatrists, Huxtable said.

Bassett has an inpatient psychiatry unit and a crisis psychiatric center as well as outpatient psychiatry services, Huxtable said, and the center’s psychiatrists work in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The center has 5.1 full-time equivalent psychiatrists, of which two are child psychiatrists, she said, and a part-time psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Rural inpatient psychiatry is a complex, intense and challenging profession, made more so by the shortage of providers, Huxtable said, and many mental health providers prefer an outpatient setting where they see patients over time.

Attracting providers, whether primary care professionals or specialists, to rural areas is easier if they are familiar with living in a geographically isolated region, having grown up or worked in such areas, Huxtable said. With a limited pool of providers, competition to attract staff is fierce and cannot be solved with dollars alone.

Bassett’s crisis unit is an emergency room service, Huxtable said, and Bassett has been paid about $1.2 million a year through the counties which receive funds from the state. These funds, which cover the costs of the program, will go to the “Mobile Crisis Assessment Team” program once the inpatient unit closes and an agreement with the program is in place, she said.

As of Wednesday, Oneonta police answered 63 mental health calls this year, of which 23 have resulted in taking a patient to Bassett, Lt. Douglas Brenner said.