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Schumer Urges Feds To Keep Canandaigua VA Acute Psych Unit Open Requests Personal Meeting With Secretary To Discuss Future Of Campus

Concerns Have Arisen On The Impact This Decision Will Have On Local Veterans And The VAs New Mission As Center Of Excellence In Mental Health

Schumer: Community Needs To Know Details Of The Plan Before VA Takes Any Action

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to keep the Canandaigua VA Medical Centers Acute Psychiatric Unit open, and requested a personal meeting with the Secretary to discuss the future of the campus. Earlier this month, the VA announced that services would remain on the Canandaigua VAMC campus and not move elsewhere in the area.

The future of VA services in Canandaigua appears bright, but the details are still vague and the community needs to know what the plan is, Schumer said. The Acute Psych Unit has been an integral part of this facility, and it seems closing this unit so quickly while there are so many questions is just plain wrong. This is hallowed ground this is what has served veterans in the past and we want it to serve the veterans in the future. We are not going to rest until this community gets everything it wants.

Schumer expressed two main concerns regarding closure of the acute psychiatric unit. First, he is concerned about the impact that closure would have on area veterans who need acute psychiatric care. Veterans in a mental health crisis need continuity of care to get better. Canandaiguas awardwinning, topquality services meet those needs, especially in light of new efforts launched at this facility, such as the geriatric psychiatry unit and the psychiatric rehabilitation unit. Taking acute care away from Canandaigua and sending veterans to Buffalo, Syracuse, or other cities would interrupt that continuum of care. This is especially worrisome given the number of veterans who will be returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan who may very well need the mental health services offered at Canandaigua. Secondly, he is concerned about how eliminating a key element of psychiatric care fits in with Canandaiguas new mission as a Center of Excellence in mental health. While the center is expected to focus on posttraumatic stress disorders, final plans are not in place. Schumer said it would be reasonable to delay a decision on closing the acute psychiatric unit until plans for this center of excellence become better defined, hoping there is a role for the acute unit to play in the new center of excellence.

During last months announcement, the VA said they will continue to study the best way to provide inpatient and outpatient services, and expect to have a final plan completed by the spring of 2007. They said the options under consideration would preserve the historic core of the campus through a combination of partial renovation and new construction, and that they would receive additional input from the local advisory panel as they finalize plans for the Canandaigua campus.

In a personal letter to R. James Nicholson, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Schumer wrote, I feel strongly that the VA needs to reconsider the closure of Canandaiguas acute psychiatric unit. Again, it is vital that any decision regarding these beds at Canandaigua be halted until a complete, final decision is made on the future of the Canandaigua VAMC.

Schumer has been very active in ensuring that the Canandaigua VA stayed open for services for New York veterans. Schumer has called former Secretary Tony Principi and R. James Nicholson numerous times over the past three years, lobbying to save Canandaigua VA, and to keep VA services on the current campus. On October 20, 2003, Schumer testified before the CARES committee, stating that closing the facility would create a crisis in health care for area veterans and an economic crisis in the community. Schumer also presented the commission with a large box with 80,000 signed petitions by state residents opposed to the shutdown plan. When Secretary Nicholson took over the VA in 2005, Schumer pressed him to support the community advisory board, and to not make changes to the board. Nicholson assured Schumer that he would continue to support the local advisory panel examining Canandaigua. Then, in March 2006, Schumer urged President George W. Bush to visit the facility.