Dozens of union members rally to oppose closures and diminishing services for those with mental illness and developmental disabilities
Albany – Hundreds of members from the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) lined the sidewalk in front of the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) at 44 Holland Ave. in Albany to protest the way the state is closing and shifting services in several state-operated psychiatric facilities.
The protesters, many who were bused from the New York City area, also chanted and waved signs opposing the shifting of services at the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
PEF Vice President Pat Baker said this rally, which is the third held since mid-January, is another step to rectify the injustice being planned for those with mental illness, and to bring attention to solutions which would benefit the state, and the thousands who rely upon its services.
“We have rallied, talked with our elected lawmakers and have presented a strong argument about preserving needed services throughout the state,” Baker said. “The plan to close the Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn will literally leave the largest population of individuals in the state with mental illness abandoned. And the plan to shut down wards in the Bronx, at Creedmoor and the children’s unit at Sagamore, plus the entire adult inpatient program at Mohawk Valley PC, is just another step towards privatization. OMH Commissioner Hogan should be proud to have a state workforce who are experts in their fields and dedicated to their professions. Instead he is listening to an investment banker who has earned a reputation for dismantling needed health care in New York.”
Ed Snow, a PEF Executive Board member who represents union members at OPWDD, said he was at the rally to protest the issues surrounding OPWDD.
“We don’t want to see a diminishment of services that our members provide,” Snow said. “The state is heading towards transferring the responsibility of providing services to voluntary operators. That’s the wrong direction to take. Closing institutional beds at Finger Lakes and the Taconic DDSOs and moving consumers with medical and behavioral problems into the community is not the way to put people first.”