* This article first appeared in The
Times Herald-Record on February 16, 2001. Used by permission.
Psychiatric center closing
plan opposed by workers
MIDDLETOWN: The region needs the services provided by Middletown Psychiatric
Center, critics of Gov. Pataki's plan say.
By Jay Stapleton
The Times Herald-Record
To maintain accreditation, the aging Middletown Psychiatric
Center would require $34 million in capital construction, including
a new power plant, state officials say.
Critics of Gov. George Pataki's plan to close the
149-bed facility in three years aren't so sure.
"It would cost maybe $2 million," said Diane Hewitt,
president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 415, which
counts as members many of the center's 400 workers.
Hewitt was joined by legislators and union leaders
for a tour of the facility yesterday. The group of more than 10 paused
in front of Tuckerman Hall to share their plans to oppose Gov. George
Pataki's proposal to save money by closing the facility.
"It should not be closed," said state Assemblyman
Jake Gunther, flanked by union leaders. "It should not be the pawn of
Gunther plans on holding public hearings to question
the proposed closing. "I'm not going to let it close," Gunther said.
"I think the governor does have a duty to explain
why he wants to close this facility," said Orange County Legislator
and Middletown native Jeff Berkman.
The governor and State Office of Mental Health officials
have made clear their plans to save money by consolidating mental- health
services for inpatients Ø $64 million statewide.
Locally, Pataki's plan calls to move inpatient services
to an existing facility in Rockland County. Workers will be offered
transfers elsewhere. Outpatient services will not be interrupted, state
"We would prefer to direct our resources where they
are most needed," said Roger Klingman, an OMH spokesman. "Especially
when we have renovated space available at Rockland."
Much of the money saved Ø a net savings of $28 million,
plus $6.6 million in annual operational savings at Middletown Ø will
be reinvested into local community programs and to rehab the Rockland
facility, the state says.
Critics of Pataki's plan to save money by closing
the long downsized Middletown facility off Monhagen Avenue doubt if
the community will ever see that money. Especially those who are mentally
ill - people who need the money and services most.
"Where's that $34 million going to go?" said Carmine
DiBattista, CSEA's region president.