At a public hearing held by the State Office of...

At a public hearing held by the State Office of Mental Health via video conferencing Tuesday, staffers at the Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center wore shirts calling for the saving the hospital in Dix Hills. (Aug. 27, 2013) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

I've read that Rikers Island is New York's largest psychiatric institution, holding more mentally ill people than all Office of Mental Health hospitals combined. This is a result of decades of closing psychiatric facilities: People end up incarcerated as a last resort.

I find it seriously alarming that Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center is slated for closure next year ["Slow down on psych center," Editorial, Sept. 29]. It is unconscionable that a hospital with such a stellar reputation that provides a very valuable inpatient program is on the chopping block.

Last year, Sagamore was told to cut 15 beds. This probably amounts to between 45 and 60 admissions that never happened because of the cut. At any given time, 15 to 20 children were on the waiting list for admission. So the number of mentally ill children who needed these services didn't decrease, but vital services were eliminated for them. And now the hospital is slated to close.

It seems to me that we are targeting the most vulnerable. We are targeting the people who do not have much of a constituency. We are ignoring the needs of the mentally ill.

We are turning the mentally ill into a chemically dependent population. No buildings, no beds, no nurses, no grass to cut; just throw them a pill and move along.

Give these children the support they need.

Patti Zerafa, East Patchogue

Editor's note: The writer is a former parent advocate at the Sagamore center.

How could any sane and caring administration even consider closing Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills? It always has been a haven of care, shelter and concern for troubled children.

To close this center would place an almost insurmountable hardship on Nassau and Suffolk parents, forcing them to travel to Queens or the Bronx to visit their children. How many children would not get to see their parents at all?

Kenneth W. Leeds, East Setauket

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