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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Letting your voices be heard"

ALBANY, Sept. 9 --Talk about getting knocked around every which way but loose.

First it was the July 10th announcement by the Cuomo administration that within the next year it was planning to shut down inpatient services at the Elmira Psychiatric Center, as well as diminish the facility’s overall role within the state’s mental health system.

That was followed a few weeks later by a second Cuomo administration announcement, this one on July 26th, that 2014 would also bring the closing of the Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility in Schuyler County as part of an overall rightsizing of New York’s correctional services system.

To say the least, it’s been a stretch of hard knocks for our region, which was already reeling from devastating job losses at Sikorsky Aircraft and elsewhere. The goals of downsizing and cost-effectiveness in government are moves in the right direction. But the Cuomo administration’s approach appears to be taking a particular toll on our region and other upstate communities – without making fiscal or programmatic sense.

Which means, on top of the other priority issues I’ve been highlighting as part of a series of Agenda 2014 columns over the past several weeks, we have our work cut out for us to try to save these facilities and all that they mean to so many local communities, to say nothing of the statewide systems of health care and correctional services.

I addressed the Elmira Psychiatric Center in this column not long ago. In particular, a Join The Fight! petition drive I started several weeks ago has drawn thousands of supporters. It’s helping to give us a strong foundation and a coordinated base of local support. That petition effort remains ongoing on my Senate website, (just click on the “Join the Fight!” icon in the left-hand column of the home page).

So let’s turn the focus this week to Monterey – including a reminder of the “Saving Monterey Shock Rally” taking place on Monday, September 9th, beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the Watkins Glen Community Center. This public rally, together with another online petition drive that got underway in
earnest last week, will be the kick-off to what we hope will be a sustained grassroots initiative to make the case to “Keep Monterey Open!” I’ll take this chance to let you know that you can conveniently access the Monterey petition through (just click on the “Keep Monterey Open!” icon in the left-hand column of the home page).

What’s the value of a petition like this one? Very simply, it’s a way for me and for every other local, state and federal leader with a stake in keeping Monterey and the Elmira Psychiatric Center open to show the powers-that-be in Albany (in this case, Governor Cuomo) that our support is strong, it’s unified and, maybe most importantly, that we believe there’s a strong case to be made to reverse these decisions to close.

Monterey was New York’s first “shock” facility. For more than a quarter of a century, Monterey has stood as an innovative and successful corrections alternative. The unique blend of counseling, education and treatment at our shock facilities has saved the state over a billion dollars during this time. In particular, the participation of Monterey inmate work crews in numerous community service and enhancement projects across a four-county region for more than two decades has been invaluable. During the past six years alone, these Monterey-based work crews have saved local communities and taxpayers nearly $6 million!

There are currently 124 locally based employees at the Monterey facility. Closing Monterey puts local jobs (and the families and communities who depend on them) at risk. It will result in significant
local tax increases. And it diminishes the effectiveness of New York State’s system of correctional services. The administration and staff of Monterey, past and present, have turned around numerous lives that were once at a dead-end but that, today, are productive and successful.

So you can help Keep Monterey Open! by signing the online petition to support my efforts and the efforts of Congressman Tom Reed, Assemblymen Phil Palmesano and Chris Friend, Elmira Mayor Sue Skidmore, Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and numerous other local, state and federal leaders to express our belief in the fundamental importance of the Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, which for more than a quarter of a century has stood as a solid cornerstone of correctional services in New York State.

Same goes for the Elmira Psychiatric Center. For decades, the Elmira PC has been a flagship of New York’s mental health system.

We’ll keep on questioning these moves from both a fiscal and programmatic standpoint, and from a fiscal as well as a quality-of-service perspective. We’ll continue to raise all of our concerns and keep working to make the case to the Cuomo administration that there are better ways to achieve the short- and long-term goals we share without putting local jobs and economies at risk, or diminishing the effectiveness of criminal justice and mental health care in New York State.

And we’ll keep letting all of you know how you can help.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869