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Hospital Closure Leaves Upstate Teens Stranded

July 6, 2007


Need emergency psychiatric help? Plan on driving up to four hours. That's soon to be the situation in Central New York for some teens because Fox Memorial Hospital in Otsego County is shutting down its psychiatric center, and it's one of the few hospitals in the area that provides immediate care to adolescents who may be attempting suicide or have other psychiatric episodes. Hospital spokesperson Maggie Barnes says the basic problem is a lack of psychiatrists.

“They are very tough to recruit to rural areas such as we serve, and you just cannot do this without the doctors. So, we have finally decided to give up the fight.”

Albany and St. Lawrence will become the closest hospitals for teens needing emergency psychiatric help. The state has offered to cover some of the hospital's expenses in hiring doctors, but Barnes says the amount offered was not nearly enough to cover their two million-dollar-a-year losses.

Pam Larsen is a mental health advocate and executive director for The Family Resource Network. She notes that Central New York already has the fewest number of beds in the state suitable for adolescents, and families have to drive long distances to reach them.

“Some of our families don't have cars, and some would have a financial difficulty because they have other children in the family that would need child care.”

Fox Hospital saw over 900 patients in 2006. Larsen reports that more than a quarter of them were teens needing immediate help.

For Larson, losing Fox Hospital is a tremendous blow to families in the center part of the state who will now have to travel as far as Albany or St. Lawrence in order to get care for their children.

“You know, this is when families need to be together the most, and they would be separated by such a long distance.”

Charles Lane/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY