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Local Lawmakers Continue To Fight Against MVPC Closure

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) – The fight to keep the Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center open continues to heat up.

City Councilman Jim Zecca, and Oneida County Legislator Harmony Speciale, spoke this morning at the State Office Building on Genesee Street. The pair, flanked by employees from the facility and citizen advocate, Tim Trent, addressed the closure of the MVPC and the $19 million needed to renovate Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse.

The lawmakers also gave copies of two petitions to Albany politicians, including Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi and representatives for State Senator Joe Griffo and Governor Andrew Cuomo. One petition was signed by 3,300 Utica residents, the other was a memorial petition signed by the entire County Legislature.

During the event, Zecca concluded that there is no reason to close down an up-to-date facility and lose 139 jobs,  while simultaneously pouring money into an “obsolete” facility away from the areas needing assistance.

“We have to be heard,” Zecca said. “We may not have the political clout, but we do have people that are concerned, you saw that today. We have people from the Chamber of Commerce all the way to the people of Occupy Utica representing.”

MVPC employees also spoke. Patricia Hoch, a mental health therapy aide at the facility, says she understands the state’s need to save money, but doesn’t understand why patients should be moved to other facilities.

“I mean, I’m sure that Hutchings doesn’t want their facility to close down either, just like ours, because they take care of them and I’m sure they have a wonderful staff up there for their patients. But, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Gino Geruntino, WIBX

According to an estimated cost sheet released by MVPC employees, several expensive renovations must be made to the Hutchings Psychiatric Center in order to accommodate more patients. Included in these costs are an estimated $1.5 million rehabilitation of one building in order to meet code requirements, and $550,000 for paving and sidewalk repair. Other costs include $230,000 for asbestos abatement and between $3 and $4.3 million for a HVAC system balance.

The Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce also jumped onto the bandwagon, hinting in a resolution that the HPC would be more attractive to purchasers based on its close proximity to several institutions, including Upstate Medical Center and Syracuse University.

But, Zecca says this should be about the patients at both facilities, not state politics.

“I really don’t want it to be a competition between the city of Utica and the city of Syracuse. That’s not the point. The point is the patients that need to be served and the money that is being spent. If the Governor goes by what he’s been saying all along, that he’s trying to get the state in fiscal order, then this is a slap in the face to the Governor. I don’t understand where the [Office of Mental Health] Commissioner [Michael Hogan] is coming up with these numbers.”

Another demonstration is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m., outside of the MVPC’s Wright Building at 1400 Noyes Street, between Churchill Avenue and York Street.

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