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Can 7,000 Signatures Save Sagamore? 

Sagamore supporters stand outside the entrance of Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center on Wednesday, holding signs that contain the 7,000 signatures collected in an effort to overturn a state plan that would close Sagamore next July.

Speaking on behalf of 7,000 supporters, three dozen mental health advocates demonstrated with signs outside Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center containing the thousands of signatures collected in an online petition urging the state to overturn a plan that would close Sagamore Children’s Psychatric Center in Dix Hills.

The advocates gathered outside the Commack Road entrance of Pilgrim State Wednesday when a group of local policy makers, chosen by the state Office of Mental Health (OMH) to formulate recommendations related to closing Sagamore, met for a third and final time.

The display of over 25 pieces of poster board showcased the concerted effort of stakeholders—parents, mental health employees and local assemblymen—who hoped that the demonstration would make a bold impression on the Long Island Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) team.

The Long Island RCE is a 15-member board comprised of stakeholders selected by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office to submit recommendations for the OMH to consider when finalizing a statewide RCE plan.

Announced this summer, the RCE plan, which includes Sagamore’s closure in July 2014, will “consolidate” many state-run mental health facilities throughout New York into Regional Centers of Excellence that will utilize “community” supports and downplay inpatient care.

Under the current plan, Sagamore, according to OMH, will close in July 2014 and the 54 inpatient beds, occupied by children, will be relocated to a RCE facility in either the Bronx or Queens.

Frank Penna, who said his 14-year-old grandson’s mental health improved significantly from the services he received at Sagamore, said closing the Dix Hills facility is simply unthinkable.

“They [Sagamore] totally turned him around. There’s no other place like that on Long Island,” Penna said, adding that other nearby treatment facilities failed to provide quality care for his grandson.

“I’m a firm believer that family is the most important thing to getting people help and to get better, and to take that away is unthinkable,” Penna added.

Dr. Dennis Dubey, former director at Sagamore, attended Wednesday’s demonstration in solidarity with his former employees and mainly, for the children, he said.

Assemblymen Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) and Chad Luppinacci (R-Huntington Station) promised they would advocate for Sagamore in Albany.

“It’s not a Democrat issue, it’s not a Republican issue – it’s a fundamental issue,” Raia said.

The Long Island Regional Centers of Excellence team met three times this fall and is comprised of over two dozen community stakeholders tasked with promoting the “recovery of adults with serious mental heath illness and to promote resiliency of children and youth with serious emotional disturbance.”

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