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Officials praise plans for Irving facility

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Hanover Town Supervisor Lou Pelletter has been a strong supporter of healthcare needs in the Town for many years.

IRVING — Only days before the Lakeshore Hospital officially closed its doors on Jan. 31, 2020, current Hannover town Supervisor Lou Pelletter participated in a rally organized by labor and community leaders to keep the facility open. Once the speeches began, officials learned the emergency room and health-care institution would be ceasing at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 through a notice received by an employee inside the building.

It was a bitter day with a sour result.

On Friday, however, Pelletter was much more optimistic hearing the news the former hospital is proposed to become a proposed 100-plus bed behavioral and mental health facility. The project was announced Thursday by Northeast Medical, which also goes by the name NE Med.

“I’m hoping for the best that it will go through,” he said.

Pelletter has been a strong supporter of healthcare needs in the town for many years. He often referenced the need for a healthcare facility in the area, and now with a new Brooks-TLC Hospital in the works, of which the facility has the support of, the latest development is even more good news.

“I’m happy that Ken Morris and the Board at Brooks-TLC kept us in mind and didn’t forget about us, so we can move forward on occupying that building, hopefully getting some of our jobs back,” Pelletter said. “We certainly need a facility like that to replace the one that we lost. … I’m happy about it, and I think everybody else will be happy that we won’t see another deteriorating building.”

Earlier Friday, state Sen. George Borrello also expressed his support for the project that was announced late Thursday. “After years of working and waiting, it appears the stars have finally aligned for healthcare in Northern Chautauqua County,” he said. “The announcement that Northeast Medical is under contract to purchase and operate the former TLC-Lakeshore facility culminates four and a half years of work and advocacy to find another provider to serve our area’s healthcare needs. Coming just weeks after the announcement that the new Brooks Hospital will be built, this latest triumph is more proof that a new era of healthcare is on its way to Chautauqua County.”

Borrello has been a leading advocate for repurposing and reopening Lakeshore as a healthcare facility, collaborating with various private and public entities to explore options for its revival.

“Particularly important is the fact that this new medical center will restore the mental health services that the area lost when Lakeshore closed. With our population’s mental health and addiction problems skyrocketing, the need for a center like this in our rural community is enormous. Lives will be saved here, and hope restored.”

NE Med said it aims to close escrow on the campus before September, with plans to submit renovation proposals to the town of Hanover, as well as Chautauqua County, by November of this year.

“Our goal is to leverage as much of the existing infrastructure as possible, renovating the facility to meet pressing local mental health needs, including addiction treatment and support,” said Joe Bonilla, director of external relations for NE Med. “We are currently assembling our executive team and seeking to identify additional uses within the behavioral and mental health categories.”

Pending approvals, construction is expected to begin shortly thereafter. NE Med said it is committed to exploring all viable options for funding the reopening of this important community resource.

Reflecting NE Med’s commitment to community involvement, the new mental health center, tentatively dubbed the “New York Medical Center,” will be formally named through town meetings by the people it will serve.

Pelletter added that he plans to make the Town’s building inspectors available around the clock to move the project forward. He plans to do the same for the proposed senior living facility in the Village of Silver Creek at the former school building on Main Street, which is planning construction to begin by the end of October.

“They’ve got my complete support to do that. If need be, I will hire an engineer to assist them, if that’s needed,” Pelletter said. “I want to see these two projects get moving. … I’m on board, and it looks like our area is starting to move a little bit.”

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