Inpatient mental health services need to return to Ulster County

To the Editor,

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, everyone in Ulster County has been called upon to make changes and sacrifices. The economy has been almost shut down, Mental Health Association as an essential service remains open and all nonessential workers have been asked to stay home. We are doing this to save lives.

One of the sacrifices in Ulster County has been the temporary loss of its inpatient behavioral health units.  The inpatient psychiatric unit that has operated at the WMC HealthAlliance was closed and individuals needing inpatient behavioral health care are treated outside of Ulster County.   Also lost is the inpatient substance abuse and detox unit.  This was done to prepare the Mary’s Ave. Campus to be a COVID-19 only hospital.  As of now, thankfully the HealthAlliance Broadway Campus and other regional hospitals were not overrun with COVID-19 patients to the extent that Mary’s Ave. had to be used.

We are now planning ways to carefully reopen Ulster County.    What needs to be kept in mind is, due to the pandemic, there has been increased isolation, increased domestic violence, increased alcohol sales, increase in overall anxiety and depression, and, therefore, we could be facing an even greater need for inpatient psychiatric services.  The inpatient psychiatric and substance abuse units need to return to Ulster County.  Having these behavioral health services available here in Kingston is a valuable and vital resource for all Ulster County residents.


Ellen Pendegar, MS, RN
CEO, Mental Health Association in Ulster County, Inc.

This letter appeared in the Kingston Daily Freeman on May 7, 2020