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Big changes for Rochester Psychiatric Center 

There are more questions than answers right now about the state's plan to overhaul its mental health system and the impact that overhaul will have on Rochester. According to the plan, the state-run Rochester Psychiatric Center on Elmwood Avenue will become the Western New York Forensic Center of Excellence — one of 15 regional centers across the state.

The Rochester Psychiatric Center has 55 beds and provides individualized psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation services, according to the state's website. Patients come from Monroe and surrounding counties.

When the state's overhaul plan is fully implemented, in 2017, the new Western New York center will house 155 beds for patients classified as "forensic adults." A report from the state Office of Mental Health says that "forensic admissions are largely determined by the courts, with the general purpose being specialty treatment for individuals involved in the criminal justice system." (The Rochester Psychiatric Center does have a regional forensic unit.)

Some forensic patients are treated until they are determined to no longer have a dangerous mental disorder, the report says. The goal for other forensic patients, it says, is "competency restoration and treatment of acute symptoms and stabilization."

Dan Hurley, president of the Upper Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association, says residents are worried about the impact the new regional center will have on nearby neighborhoods. They're also concerned about the fate of the Psychiatric Center's current patients. The state's plan appears to take all non-forensic inpatients out of Rochester and moves them to a facility in Buffalo. Hurley says moving those patients will disrupt their treatment and their lives by removing the support networks they have in place.

The Rev. Deborah Fae Swift, pastor of South Presbyterian Church on East Henrietta Road, says in a letter that the church has an ongoing relationship with Psychiatric Center patients who are close to being discharged, and that many continue to seek out the church for support afterward.

"We are their neighbors and friends," Swift says.

Questions to Elizabeth Suhre, executive director of the Psychiatric Center, were directed to the state. A long list of questions about the state overhaul was sent to a spokesperson for the State Office Mental Health, who responded with a general statement:

"Within the 2014-2015 state budget, the Office of Mental Health's Rochester Psychiatric Center remains operational as a psychiatric center serving both civil and forensic populations; the same populations which it serves today," the statement says. "Representatives from the Office of Mental Health and Rochester Psychiatric Center plan to meet with local neighborhood associations regarding its longstanding and continuing operations in the City of Rochester."

A local meeting on the state's plan is planned for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27, in the Rehab Building at the Rochester Psychiatric Center, room 206/208.

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