Petition being circulated to save jobs at the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica Common Council members Jim Zecca and Dave Testa, along with Oneida County Legislator Harmony Speciale held a public meeting Monday night regarding the status of the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center.

During the meeting, the three legislators who live in West Utica where the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center is located, told the large crowd inside the cafeteria at Holy Trinity School that a petition is being circulated to urge Governor Andrew Cuomo to step in regarding the State Office of Mental Health's decision to move jobs from Utica to Syracuse.

On February 8th, Michael Hogan, the Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health announced one ward at the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center would close, and two others would move to the Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse. And with that, more than 100 jobs would be moving from Utica to Syracuse.

The trio of elected officials that held Monday's public meeting in Utica invited two other elected officials, State Senator Joe Griffo of Rome and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica.

Both Griffo and Brindisi said the meeting wasn't planned until late last Thursday, and they already had prior commitments.

We did catch up with each Monday morning.

Both Griffo and Brindisi say that ever since the announcement was made in February, they have been working together to try and convince the Commissioner of Mental Health Michael Hogan that it would actually save the state money by having the workers from the Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse come to Utica, rather than those in Utica go to Syracuse.

Brindisi says he has met with the Commissioner Hogan as well as members of Governor Cuomo's administration as recently as Friday.

"It is going to cost 19 million dollars to renovate Hutchings Psychiatric Center. That's a lot of money," Assemblyman Brindisi said. "Although the Commissioner of Mental Health is saving money in the Office of Mental Health Budget, when you look at the overall budget, this is a big expense to the taxpayers. That's the point that I made to the Governor's Office and we'll see what happens."

Senator Griffo says he too has tried repeatedly talking to the Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health as well as the Governor's Office.

"Well, the Commissioner doesn't seem to be willing to really reconsider and re-evaluate and that's very unfortunate and that concerns me," Senator Griffo said. "But again, we are legislators and we do not control the actions of the Executive branch. So the only thing that can be done here is for the Commissioner himself to reverse the decision, or for the Governor's Office to come in and say we want to put this on hold. We've asked them to come in and do this, and I'm not sure what is going to happen."

Although both the senator and assemblyman have other commitments Monday night, they did send representatives from their office to Monday's public meeting.

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