Sunmount won't close; OPWDD clarifies statements

The Sunmount Development Disabilities Services Office in Tupper Lake is not slated for closure in 2014.

That's according to a spokesman with the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

Earlier this week, WCNY reporter Susan Arbetter asked OPWDD Commissioner Courtney Burke if Sunmount would be closed along with several other large-scale facilities.

Burke told the reporter that the state is "seeking to close all of our developmental centers by the end of 2014."

Burke's spokesman, Travis Proulx, says the confusion arose because of a long-time plan to shutter what's known as "Developmental Centers."

Sunmount is a "Developmental Disabilities Services Office" and not in the same category, Proulx says.

"It's very unfortunate that unnecessary anxiety and confusion was caused by this technical difference that the commissioner wishes she had clarified to the interviewer yesterday," he said. "Sunmount is not a developmental center. It will continue to provide specialized services to individuals who require the intensive treatment."

Mickey Desmarais is mayor of the village of Tupper Lake. He says Burke's statement simply wasn't true.

"Someone misspoke," Desmarais said. "Sunmount DDSO is not involved in this whatsoever. Sunmount is a special needs unit, it's not even being considered to close. It's unfortunate that this got out like this. But we need to put this to bed as quick as possible."

Desmarais says Burke's statement about Sunmount is "absolutely, totally, 100 percent not true."

He adds that her comments sparked fear and unrest in the Tupper Lake community, noting that some people started looking for work elsewhere upon hearing the news.

Desmarais notes that Sunmount is Tupper Lake's biggest employer, with some 1,700 workers both in the community and at group homes across the region.

"I mean I went to my granddaughter's kindergarten graduation this morning and there was people panicking, people who said they cried on their way to work - I mean this is so unfortunate," Desmarais said. "Be careful when you speak. This is like a tidal wave."

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