SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A mental health staple in the Schenectady community is finally open again after months of uncertainty. Ellis Medicine confirms its inpatient adolescent mental health unit is finally up and running after staffing shortages forced a temporary closure back in May.

“Now, with the hospital being back open and the unit being accessible, it’s been great to be able to have students go over, be assessed further and if needed have time there to get the treatment that they need,” says Donna Fowler, the Schenectady City School District Assistant Director of Student Support Services.

She says even with counselors and social workers, it’s been tough meeting all the students’ mental health needs without Ellis Hospital as a resource. For more than six months, if adolescents in the area needed additional treatment or monitoring, they were diverted to different hospitals in Saratoga or Albany. 

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

As NEWS10 previously reported, Ellis announced April 30 that the unit would temporarily shut down effective 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 Approval Review (PAR) application to OMH, which is legally required before the hospital could close the adolescent psychiatric unit.”

An additional statement dated May 12 reads:

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

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

Plastiras confirms to NEWS10 on Friday no penalties 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 Region, and we are pleased they have reopened their youth inpatient program. OMH actively worked with Ellis to provide support for the reopening, including collaborating with their leadership to develop a comprehensive implementation plan for resuming operations, providing intensive training to staff on the units, and providing technical assistance on recruitment and retention.

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

Throughout the inpatient facility’s temporary closure, 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.

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