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Fight to keep mental health services in Luzerne County

Earlier this month, Commonwealth Health announced it planned to eliminate outpatient services and close First Hospital in Kingston.

KINGSTON, Pa. — Worry continues to fill the minds of people who receive treatment through First Hospital and its outpatient services after news from Commonwealth Health that they would be closing on October 30.

"If I don't have this place to come to to get my meds and see my counselor, I don't know where I am going to go or where I am going to get my help from. nobody is Going to be able to help me," Chandra Pfeffer said.

"People aren't going to have anywhere to go close by. They are going to be sent out to all different places, scattered, and you won't know if you'll get transportation," said Amanda Potechko.

People gathered outside Community Counseling Services on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre to show their desire to keep all of the services open.

"It's like a family," said Albert Travis of Wilkes-Barre. "The staff is like family. A lot of us have been coming here for years. We can sit down with the staff if we have a problem and discuss it one on one."

Northeast Behavioral Health Care is stepping in to ease those concerns. The nonprofit has been working with Commonwealth Health to potentially keep First Hospital and outpatient facilities open.

"As of right now, there are no guarantees. It is in very early stages, but we wanted everyone to know that we are working in the background to try to do everything we can to keep First Hospital moving beyond that October 30 deadline," said Matthew Kalimchok, CFO of Northeast Behavioral Health Care.

Northeast Behavioral Health Care has served Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wyoming, and Susquehanna Counties since 2006. Officials tell Newswatch 16 it has reached out to its network of nearly 150 providers across the region.

"We are working as diligently and as quickly as possible to try to find a transition plan to ease the burden for both the patients and staff of the organizations," Kalimchok said.

Northeast Behavioral Health Care says there are still a lot of moving parts to make this all possible, but the nonprofit says it is doing what it can to work something out before the end of October.

Commonwealth Health also announced plans to unite two hospitals in Scranton under one license.

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