Mental health in Yates: Legislature weighs in on FLH closure request

Should a non-profit, private health care provider be required to provide a service that it is not finding to be financially viable? How can a small rural community best care for the mental health needs of its residents — adult and children?

Those are two of the basic questions swirling around the community after news about Finger Lakes Health’s plans to close the Behavioral Health Unit at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital were revealed. An active community group, bolstered by school district and local government officials is asking even more.

While more current and former caregivers, clients, and family members are speaking out in opposition to the potential closure of the unit that serves adults, others say there is a serious lack of adequate mental health services for children. In both situations, people in education, law enforcement, and criminal justice fields say they are ill-equipped to help the growing number of people in dire need of mental health services.

The County speaks

The Yates County Legislature is expected to make a statement about the possible closing of the hospital’s inpatient unit next week. A resolution opposing the planned closure will be introduced at the Feb. 11 Legislature meeting by Ed Bronson (District 2), who chairs the group’s Human Resources Committee.

Timothy Dennis (District 2) said the legislature is in charge of public health in the county, and mental health is part of public health. “I don’t think we should ignore the fact that we have a concern, and we have a responsibility,” he said, adding he’s not sure about interfering with a private, non-profit organization’s business. But Rick Willson (D2) said he feels Soldiers & Sailors function is to support the community, and it’s doing this is a failure to support the community.

None of the legislators indicated they would not support the resolution.

Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike has reported multiple times to legislators about the strain working with jail inmates that need mental health services puts on his staff.

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