It all began when the mental health commissioner made plans to move Utica patients to Syracuse. Opposition to his plan has skyrocketed, and after 2 months of deliberation, the Councilmen left for Albany this afternoon to urge the Commissioner to reconsider.
"Keep the jobs here in Utica, at the psychiatric center and not to spend 19 million dollars at the Hutchins Center in Syracuse, it makes no sense," says Councilmen James Zecca.
A wave of support for the psychiatric center erupted when the mental health commissioner issued an order to move all Utica patients and operations to Syracuse. But after a long battle and receiving over 5,000 petition signatures, the councilmen are meeting in Albany to voice their concerns.
"This facility is brand new, codes compliant, needs no improvement, but the facility that the state proposes to ship our people to from Utica, it needs a $19 million dollar rehab," says Tim Trent, Citizen Advocate.
Trent says millions of tax dollars already invested in the psychiatric center will go to waste if the center is abandoned, as well as the loss of jobs.
"There are 140 jobs involved, people in facility here that are gonna be dumped into the community. They're not prepared to take care of themselves and community agencies are not prepared," says Trent.
The Utica Common Council and the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce came to unanimous resolutions, and all 29 Oneida County Legislators have signed formal petitions opposing the center's closing.
"We plan to turn the process around, keep the jobs at Mohawk Valley, keep the patients intact, where they are, where they're safe, where they're cared for," says Harmony Speciale, Oneida County Legislator.
After the meeting ended, the Commissioner decided to move forward with the closing of some facilities at The Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center. However, Oneida county will be receiving $500,000 dollars to expand outpatient services, there will be 20 or fewer jobs eliminated, and the Commissioner has made a commitment to keep the children's psychiatric facility in Utica.