Reports: Sunmount could close by 2014

A high level state official says the Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services Office could close as early as 2014.

Courtney Burke is commissioner of the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

She was interviewed this week on the public radio program "Capital Pressroom" about an apparent statewide effort to close large facilities like Sunmount - which is one of the largest employers inside the Adirondack Park and considered by some to be the lifeblood of Tupper Lake's economy.

"We are seeking to close all of our developmental centers by the end of 2014," Burke told the program's host, Susan Arbetter.

New York has already closed several large-scale facilities in an attempt to transfer as many patients as possibly to smaller group homes.

But Sunmount provides care to developmentally disabled patients with more severe conditions and behavioral issues. Burke says that when moving those individuals into a community setting, they need to have the right support services in place.

Earlier this month, a New York Times article authored by reporter Danny Hakim alleged "systemic abuse" at facilities like Sunmount.

That report prompted outcry from local officials, who defended Sunmount.

Mickey Desmarais is mayor of the village of Tupper Lake. While he said reform may be needed at Sunmount and other, similar institutions, he also defended the facility.

He called it the "goose the lays the golden egg" for Tupper Lake.

"They employ well over a thousand people," Desmarais said. "These people live here, they shop here."

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