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Brooks-TLC turned backs on area

On Friday, the state Office of Mental Health Behavioral Health Services Advisory Council decided to keep the Irving facility open for the time being.

While the facility’s census has remained high despite misinformation in the community regarding a closure date, the Brooks-TLC administration — even Friday — still pushed for closure. Unfortunately for the administration, their best underhanded tactics and attempts to ensure staff and patients alike are left without answers have been unsuccessful in forcing immediate closure.

The role of agencies like the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services is to advocate and protect patients, not to serve the best interests of large corporations. These agencies are literally put into place to advocate for what is best for the patients. A vote in favor of closing the hospital ensures only that these larger corporations like Kaleida may continue side-stepping rules and do as they please.

As the situation stands already, misinformation and poor communication has been rampant and has created a crisis for the employees and patients of TLC. A vote in favor of closure would have affirmed to our patients that if you live in a rural area, if you are a minority, or if you are low-income. Access to mental health and substance use and at times even medical treatment are not rights, but luxuries that must be earned.

Studies by our own county Office of Mental Hygiene have shown that Chautauqua County experiences higher rates of suicide than the state average. That trend exists with two psychiatric facilities in our county. How then does it make sense to continue to close facility after facility with no equivalent in place? We already routinely send patients out of area to the nearest available bed and yet we choose to believe that closing TLC will leave adequate programs for our friends and family in need.

You may choose to believe that this closure is purely out of financial need or to adapt to the changing needs of our healthcare system, but that is not the case. There is much for Kaleida and the Brooks-TLC administration to gain from the closure of the TLC campus.

Aubrey Cunningham is a Fredonia resident.

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