Committee votes down resolution to keep Broome mental health center open

Matt Martin
June 11, 2014

A resolution to keep the Broome County Mental Health Clinic open has failed to make it out of committee. Several of the clinic’s supporters spoke out during a committee meeting last night.

The resolution would have delayed the closure until June of 2016. The vote was along party lines, with two Democrats voting for the resolution and the three Republicans against.

Before the vote, Arthur Johnson, head of the county’s department of social services, addressed the committee. He said cuts to Medicaid and Medicare payments from the state have kept the clinic’s finances in the red.

“I’ve taken a lot of measures to try to reduce the overall operating costs of the department but I can’t make up the difference in lost revenue,” says Johnson.

That led the county administration to propose the closure.

There are also two private mental health clinics in Broome County and a third that will open in July. The administration argues that the three private clinics can handle all the patients in the region.

Democratic Legislator Jason Garnar says, if the clinic closes, patients will start falling through the cracks.

“Voting against the resolution to keeping the clinic open, in my mind, has endangered the community and made our community less safe. And I am concerned about that,” says Garnrar.

About 50 community members came to the meeting to voice their opposition.

Republican Legislator Stephen Flagg voted in favor of closure. Flagg says people will get the help they need in the private sector.

“I’m a free market, private sector, conservative guy and that’s always the way I’ve been. That’s what we believe. We believe we should have less government,” says Flagg.

The clinic is budgeted to stay open until the end of the year, but social services commissioner Johnson says the center could be phased out as soon as September.

Jason Garnar says, despite the vote last night, he’ll use a procedural rule to bring the resolution to a vote in front of the full legislature next month.