Parents, Staff Rally to Save Children's Psych Center

Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center has been slated for closure by New York State. Parents and staff at the center came out to speak out about it on Tuesday.

Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center. File photo.
Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center. File photo.
A group of parents and employees spoke up on Tuesday to protest the proposed closure of the Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills, a move which would shutter inpatient services at the facility and merge them with programs in Queens and the Bronx.

New York State's Office of Mental Health released a 'Regional Centers of Excellence' plan last month, a 58-page document which started with a letter from Acting Commissioner Kristin Woodlock noting that "the time has come to fundamentally change the way we think about mental health in New York State."

Such change includes a proposal which would eliminate all adolescent inpatient services on Long Island, leaving Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brendwood – which would be renamed Island Regional Center of Excellence – as the only inpatient facility in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Teens would still be able to receive outpatient services through Sagamore, the plan says. However parents of children who have used Sagamore, as well as staff, have said that the coverage is not enough for such a vulnerable group.

Newsday quoted Dennis Dubey, executive director at Sagamore from 2003-2011, as saying the following: "Unless Sagamore remains open, parents will be placed in the unenviable position of risking their children at home versus sending them somewhere relatively inaccessible to their families."

News12 spoke to one mother – Nancy Barry of Bethpage – whose 15-year-old son had used outpatient care before. It "wasn't enough," she said, and her son has seen more fitting care at Sagamore since May.

"He needed the hands on constant care of having therapists and psychiatrists and support staff round him at all times," she said.

One group, called 'Save Sagamore,' has since started lobbying to keep the facility open as well, starting a Change.org petition to gather interest and show the support others have to continue services there. Over 3,600 e-signatures have been gathered to date.


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