Ellis Hospital finally reopens inpatient youth mental health unit after six months

SCHENECTADY, ​​NY (NEWS10) – A mental health staple in the Schenectady community has finally reopened after months of uncertainty. Ellis Medicine has confirmed that its inpatient adolescent mental health unit is finally up and running after staff shortages forced a temporary closure back in May.

“Now that the hospital is back open and the unit is available, it’s been great to be able to have the students come through, be further evaluated and if needed have time there to get the treatment they need,” said Donna Fowler, of Schenectady City School District Assistant Director of Student Support Services.

She says that even with counselors and social workers, it was difficult to meet all of the students’ mental health needs without Ellis Hospital as a resource. For more than six months, if teenagers in the area needed additional treatment or follow-up, they were referred to various hospitals in Saratoga or Albany.

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“Which is difficult for our families, especially when they may have a barrier of not having transportation and not being able to get to those additional hospitals,” Fowler explained to NEWS10’s Michaela Singleton.

As NEWS10 previously reported, Ellis announced on April 30 that the unit would be temporarily shut down starting May 2, giving less than two full days’ notice. This prompted the NYS Office of Mental Health to warn the hospital group that it had not gone through the proper channels, writing to NEWS10, “Ellis Hospital has not submitted a Prior Authorization Review (PAR) application to OMH, which is legally required before the hospital can closed the adolescent psychiatric ward.”

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The additional announcement of May 12 said:

OMH has notified Ellis Hospital of the possibility of ongoing penalties related to unapproved bed reductions and unit closures, but has not yet imposed a financial penalty. OMH will provide specialized youth-focused training for Ellis staff and we continue to work with hospital administrators exploring options to support Ellis in their work with the unit.

James Plastiras, Director of Public Information, NYS Office of Mental Health

Plastiras confirmed to NEWS10 on Friday that no fines were ever issued and OMH instead offered support to Ellis, writing:

Ellis Hospital provides important services to the children, adults and families of the capital, and we are pleased that they have reopened their youth inpatient program. OMH worked actively with Ellis to provide support for the reopening, including working with their management to develop a comprehensive implementation plan to resume operations, providing intensive training to unit staff, and providing technical assistance for recruitment and retention.

James Plastiras, Director of Public Information, NYS Office of Mental Health

During the temporary closure of the inpatient facility, Ellis Hospital maintained outpatient mental health services through its Ellis Health Center on State Street. The hospital group also maintains a 24/7 crisis line at 518-243-4000.

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An Ellis Medicine representative responding to NEWS10’s requests for comment Friday says the inpatient adolescent mental health unit began slowly accepting admissions on Nov. 15. NEWS10 continues to await further clarification on the circumstances leading to the reopening and the current capacity limitations.

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