A top Republican in the state Senate said Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration will consider alternatives to closing four developmental centers and nine psychiatric hospitals, with a meeting with state lawmakers tentatively scheduled for next week on the issue.
Senate Deputy GOP Leader Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, held a news conference Monday to speak out about the closures — which include the Greater Binghamton Health Center and the Broome Developmental Center in his district — and call for a “freeze” on implementing the plan until 2015.
Libous said he’s been in touch with the Cuomo administration, which told him they are open to a “counter proposal.” Last week, top Cuomo aide Larry Schwartz called Libous to set up a meeting with affected lawmakers and stakeholders. (Cuomo’s office confirmed the expected meeting.)
“I’m hoping that there’s an alternative to what they’ve proposed,” Libous said in a phone interview. “I’m hoping — speaking for the Southern Tier region — that we have some presence. Everything is designed to cut us out. It wipes out Elmira and Binghamton, and that’s not right.”
The closure plans hit the Southern Tier particularly hard, impacting about 1,000 jobs in the region, according to Libous. Of the nine planned psychiatric hospital closures, one is in Binghamton and another in Elmira. A separate plan to close facilities for the developmentally disabled hits Binghamton by March 2016.
At the news conference in Binghamton, Libous shared the podium with top officials from local hospitals, jails and county mental-health offices to speak out against the closure plan. He said he would soon introduce a bill to implement the two-year “freeze,” but said talk of the closures can’t wait until the budget process opens in January.
“It’s a crisis,” Libous said. “It’s something that needs to be really thought out and looked at, and that’s why I’m asking for a freeze until April 1, 2015.”
UPDATE: In a statement, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, said she would introduce the same bill in the Legislature’s lower house.
“I appreciate Senator Libous’ efforts to postpone the proposed closures of both the Greater Binghamton Health Center and the Broome Developmental Center with his moratorium legislation,” Lupardo said in a statement. “I plan to introduce the same bill in the Assembly, along with Assemblyman Crouch. After the public hearings and community forums that we held, it became clear that the proposed changes need much further review.”
(Photo via Libous’ Facebook page.)