Plan Would Consolidate 24 Psychiatric Hospitals Into 15 Community Centers

DIX HILLS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A hospital that helps troubled kids is on the chopping block as part of a sweeping plan to downsize New York State psychiatric facilities.

As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Friday, parents are fighting to save Long Island’s only psychiatric hospital for children.

The Dolgoffs are on a mission to change minds after learning Sagamore Children’s Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills would be shuttered under the restructuring plan.

“It is akin to a criminal act,” Suzanne Dolgoff told Gusoff.

Their daughter, Lara, was a patient at Sagamore when she was 14 years old and suicidal.

“She had several episodes of incidents where she did try to kill herself,” Suzanne Dolgoff said.

The Dolgoffs said emergency rooms were not effective in treating Lara because she had borderline personality disorder.

Lara’s parents credit Sagamore with saving her through her teenage years.

The new plan by the New York State Office of Mental Health proposes sweeping changes to what some say is an oversized system that spends too much money on too few people.

Officials said New York’s mental health system is bloated and antiquated, based on an 1800s model that created asylums.

New York State’s mental health system is the largest in the nation, Gusoff reported.

The plan is to consolidate 24 state psychiatric hospitals into 15 community centers. None of them would treat children as inpatients on Long Island.

The 54 children at Sagamore would move to New York City hospitals.

Amy Leccese’s 15-year-old son is currently a patient at Sagamore.

“I’m a single working mother, I have three children,” she told Gusoff. “That would be impossible for me to do. As it is now, I go, I pick him up, I’m visiting with him constantly.”

Outpatient programs could save millions and some say it’s a better way to treat mental illness.

“It’s a great opportunity to take the money that we’re going to save through the restructuring and refunnel that into services in the community,” said Susan Berger with the group Long Island Families Together.

But experts say kids are, at times, too sick to be treated at home.

“Sometimes, the mental illness is so strong that you must have a hospital,” Dr. Dennis Dubey, the former executive director of Sagamore Children’s Center, told Gusoff.

Lara committed suicide last year at age 23. The Dolgoffs helped launch an online petition to save Sagamore, arguing that saving the facility will help save lives.

“These people are going to fly under the radar. They are going to then go out and harm themselves and perhaps other people,” Suzanne Dolgoff said.

If the consolidation plan is included in the governor’s budget, Sagamore’s inpatient care will end next summer.

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