Lawmakers rally over planned closure of psychiatric ward
April 2, 2018 | By Bruce Golding
City pols are urging the state to block the closing of a psychiatric ward in upper Manhattan, where residents fear that hundreds of untreated mentally ill people will wind up on neighborhood streets.
In a letter to Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan, more than a half-dozen local lawmakers from Manhattan and The Bronx say they oppose the plan by NewYork-Presbyterian to “de-certify” all 30 in-patient psychiatric beds at its Allen Hospital, in Inwood.
The letter, on official stationery bearing the names of state Sen. Marisol Alcantara (D-Inwood) and Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa (D-Inwood), says the move would deprive their constituents of “vital health services.”
The officials also rejected claims by New York-Presbyterian that Allen Hospital’s mental patients “can be easily absorbed throughout their system.”
New York-Presbyterian’s nearest hospital, Columbia University Medical Center, “has had a steady increase in inpatient discharges since 2012,” and its Westchester Division, in White Plains, and Gracie Square Hospital, on the Upper East Side, are too far away, they said.
“It is deeply worrisome to hear that NewYork-Presbyterian is advocating to leave northern Manhattan and Bronx neighborhoods without suitable psychiatric resources,” the letter read.
It was also signed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and City Council members Mark Levine (D-Hamilton Heights), Carlina Rivera (D-East Village) and Diana Ayala (D-East Harlem).
“A lot of people are very concerned that Inwood is changing — even the hospital,” the Rev. Thomas Faiola said Sunday as he handed out candy to children after the noon Easter Mass at the Roman Catholic Good Shepherd Church on Isham Street.
In an application to the state Department of Health, New York-Presbyterian has proposed spending $70 million to replace the Allen Hospital’s third-floor psychiatric unit with a new maternity ward and create four additional operating rooms.
The hospital treats about 600 psychiatric patients a year, about half from Washington Heights and Inwood, said the local community board, which opposes the plan.
In a joint statement, both the DOH and OMH said they were evaluating that plan and “public comments on this proposal,” adding: “Ensuring appropriate access to psychiatric services is our primary goal.”