Officials seek mental health answers
YATES COUNTY--Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY), state Senator Tom O'Mara (R,C, I-Big Flats), and state Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C,I-Corning) sponsored a mental health community roundtable in Penn Yan Monday, April 22. The meeting, "Crisis in Care: Mental Health Services in Rural Communities," brought together regional leaders for a discussion on mental health needs and resources for the community.
The meeting was held in the Yates County Auditorium and featured a panel of area lawmakers, health care professionals, community development specialists, school superintendents, law enforcement, and health care providers to examine the strategies for providing more mental health services and care.
In a joint statement, Reed, O'Mara, and Palmesano said, "We share the widespread concern and care over a growing crisis and the lack of available services to respond to ever-increasing needs for mental health care. Consequently, we appreciate this outpouring of community input. Rural communities and regions face unique obstacles to accessibility, efficiency, and cost effectiveness in this arena of care. Today's roundtable highlights this community's determination to face this challenge and find the best ways to address it."
The area representatives said community fears have been heightened since February when Finger Lakes Health announced that no new patients would be admitted to the former 10-bed inpatient behavioral health unit at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Penn Yan. They share community concerns that the lack of conveniently accessible, affordable, efficient, and cost-effective mental health care will worsen what is already a mental health crisis in Yates County and the rest of the region.
Since then, Reed, O'Mara, and Palmesano have urged Finger Lakes Health and the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) to work together to enhance the area's mental health services.
Finger Lakes Health Chief Executive Officer and President Dr. Jose Acevedo said Soldiers and Sailors plans to initiate several options to help with community mental health needs. The hospital chief said psychiatric professionals are in a nationwide shortage and the Penn Yan unit must operate within this reality. However, Dr. Acevedo said they are shifting hospital resources from inpatient to outpatient needs. He also said they need to make more evening hours available for outpatients and utilize more tele-medicine with psychiatric sessions. He also said they want to partner with local school districts to help provide mental health services.
Another key point mentioned by several panelists included the need for more money to be invested for mental health needs.
The medical director for Cayuga Medical Services, Dr. Clifford J. Ehmke, made the point Cayuga provides mental health services but payments often don't cover their costs. Dr. Ehmke said, "The state tells us what the basic requirements are for taking care of patients, yet their own reimbursement only gets to about 70 percent of the total cost to provide those services. That makes the process not sustainable on a long-term basis."
Shawn Rosno, director of community services in Schuyler County, said Schuyler has been providing some part-time support for Dundee school with mental health services. However, Rosno pointed out our area is seeing the problems associated with budget cuts that impact social services and family health matters.
Dundee Central School Superintendent Kelly Houck said, "Now we have to move from discussion to action. We need to analyze and identify how we can create a county mental health department and clinic at an appropriately staffed, adequately funded and sustainable level."
Panelists participating in Monday's discussion included:
Donna Bradbury, associate commissioner, Division of Integrated Community Services for Children and Families, state office of mental health
Christina Doherty Smith, director western New York field office, state office of mental health
Dr. Jose Acevedo, president and chief executive officer, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital
Ann McMullen, immediate past chair and board members, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital
Ardelle Bigos, vice-president of Nursing, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital
Deborah A Minor, director of public health, Yates County Public Health and Schuyler County Public Health
George A. Roets, director, Yates County Community Services
Sara Christensen, deputy director, Yates County Public Health and Schuyler County Public Health
Katie Roush, director, Schuyler County Mental Health Clinic
Shawn Rosno, director of community services, Schuyler County Health Services
Charlotte Jaynes, budget and records coordinator, Schuyler County Health Services
Undersheriff Howard Davis, Yates County Sheriff's Office
Jared Bailey, chief correction officer, Yates County Sheriff's Office
Arlene Francis, peer services coordinator, AspireHopeNY, Inc.
Dr. Clifford Ehmke, medical director, Cayuga Medical
Eric Jansen, administrative director, Cayuga Medical
Deb Raupers, vice president patient services, Cayuga Medical
Jennifer Carlson, deputy executive director, Finger Lakes Area Counseling and Recovery Agency (FLACRA)
Kelly Houck, superintendent, Dundee Central School District
Howard Dennis, superintendent, Penn Yan Central School District
Elizabeth Nolan, chief operating officer, Hillside Family of Agencies
Amy D. Miller, commissioner, Yates County Department of Social Services
Laura Rossman, CEO, ProAction of Steuben and Yates, Inc.
Joseph Majauskas, director of behavioral health, eastern region Rochester Regional Health
Colin Scantlin, director of acute services, Rochester General