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Clifton Park health clinic to close next month

The Daily Gazette - 12/31/2017

Dec. 30--CLIFTON PARK -- The Center for Disability Services will be closing its Clifton Park health care clinic in January, moving all services provided there to its main hub in downtown Albany.

The clinic, located on Route 146 in town, will officially close on Jan. 15. An estimated 332 patients will be affected by the relocation, according to Anne Schneider Costigan, spokesperson for the center.

Schneider Costigan said the move is part of a plan to consolidate all of the center's medical and dental services into its main location in Albany at 315 South Manning Blvd. The decision to move, she said, was not a financial one.

"It's not about saving money," she said. "This decision was based on strengthening our services. It was really driven [by the desire] to build a community health center in Albany."

If the closure was financially driven, she argued, positions would have been eliminated. But all four employees at the Clifton Park center, which includes two social workers, a nurse, and practice specialist, will be moved to the Albany location.

Patients who were receiving neurology services in Clifton Park by a contracted physician will be transferred to a center-employed doctor in the Albany location.

She declined to say exactly how much money the center would save from closing the Clifton Park office. Other satellite offices that don't focus on medical or dental aspects will remain open.

Patients of the Clifton Park center were notified between Dec. 8 and Dec. 11 via letter of the impending move detailing how they would be able to access the services at the Albany location.

The Center for Disability Services is a nonprofit headquartered in Albany, with satellite locations scattered throughout upstate New York that provide a wide range of services, from physical and mental health care, to early childhood care programs. It has a yearly budget of $133 million.

The Clifton Park office specialized in psychiatric and social worker services, as well as pediatric neurology.

Town Supervisor Phil Barrett had no knowledge of the impending move prior to Friday afternoon. Noting that the center has maintained a presence in town for at least a decade, he said that he was surprised to hear of the closure.

"I think it was an asset for Clifton Park and Saratoga County to have that presence here," he said.

But Tara Didonna, a client of the Clifton Park office, is nervous about what the relocation will mean for area patients.

Didonna lives in Clifton Park and has utilized the center frequently for counseling and other services for the last two years.

Didonna has visited various health and mental clinics, none of which have been a fit for her, she said. The small office in Clifton Park provided her with the personalized care that she needed, and gave her with the unique sense of stability that she had been searching for, she said.

The center cut hours back a year and a half ago, she said, and when she received a letter two weeks ago notifying her of closure, she found that her worst fears had been confirmed.

"It's going to be very difficult," she said. "To me, this is a hub in the area."

Other facilities, such as the Saratoga County Mental Health Center, have barriers like long waiting lists, she said.

And the upcoming loss has hit everyone hard, she said, recalling a few weeks ago when she and another patient in the office shared a hug while feeling upset over the closure.

"Everyone in that office has been so good to me," she said. "The office is very small and friendly. It doesn't have an institutional feel."

Schneider Costigan said the Albany office is much larger than the Clifton Park office.

"It's a significantly larger center," she said.

Among Didonna's fears are difficulties involved with traveling to the Albany location from Saratoga County. Many clients, including her, have physical disabilities that could make going back and forth challenging.

Schneider Costigan said that the center has not received calls from patients with traveling concerns.

"That has not been brought to our attention at this time," she said, "We would certainly work with people on that."

She added that patients from the Clifton Park location are already calling to schedule appointments in the Albany location.

Didonna is fearful that disabled people in the area are at risk of falling through the cracks the further away from them resources move. The center, she claimed, is putting patients at risk simply to bolster its main facility in Albany.

"No one is aware of the repercussions this will have on people around here," she said. "It's going to be the patients who suffer."

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(c)2017 The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y.

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