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Letters: Closing psych facilities for youth

An aerial view of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric

An aerial view of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center, between the Long Island Expressway and Sagtikos State Parkway. (Nov. 10, 1999) Credit: Newsday / Michael E. Ach

Shame on Albany! To close the only children's inpatient state facility on Long Island in the name of the budget is truly sickening ["Two psych centers to cut beds," News, July 12].

Albany's plan is to eliminate the 57 beds reserved for children and teens at the Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center next year and to consolidate Sagamore's patients with those in the Bronx and Queens state facilities. Having limited options of where children can be placed will undoubtedly keep too many children from receiving the help they need.

It seems that New York State wants to get out of the mental health business, but you cannot run from mental illness. Helping children with emotional and behavioral disturbances when they are young is critical.

Peter Koniuch, Kings Park

Does New York State really think that our psychiatric hospitals are like "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"? The quote in a Newsday article about "locking people away for the rest of their lives" would have the public believe that.

These in-patient centers take suicidal, severely depressed and often violent children and adults, treat them and keep them safe, while helping modify their behavior until they are ready to leave.

My cousin has been an on-again, off-again patient at the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood. It is one of the few places where he really feels safe. These hospitals are not places for punishment, they are places of respite.

Fern Levine, Ronkonkoma

I found it fascinating that on Page A13 there was an article about a teenager who had been contemplating killing himself ["Mental health key in teen's terror case," News, July 12], and on Page A14 was a story about the plan to cut children's psychiatric hospital beds.

As a pediatrician, I have witnessed the incredible rise in mental illness among young people over the past 30 years, even as we have conquered infectious diseases through immunization and public health practices.

Up to 30 percent of Americans experience a mental health disorder during childhood and adolescence. It is common for children and adolescents to seek help at a hospital emergency department with a complaint of suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, substance abuse, severe panic disorder or a variety of other problems with psychiatric origins.

Unfortunately, these patients are routinely admitted to a general pediatric unit, while social workers and others spend days trying to find an available, appropriate inpatient psychiatric placement. The patients often require one-to-one surveillance while in the hospital -- a totally inappropriate and wasteful use of resources.

Cutting any piece of this critical support system for children is ill-conceived.

Dr. Ronald Marino, Mineola

Editor's note: The writer is director of general pediatrics at Winthrop-University Hospital.