Weekly Feature



2015-04-02 / Front Page

Children’s Psychiatric Center to remain open one more year

by JENNIFER WATERS
Editor

As part of a new state budget, an agreement has been reached to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca open for at least another year, according to Sen. Patrick Gallivan.

(See editorial on page four)

The state had proposed closing the center and moving adolescent patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

Under the agreement, the West Seneca facility will remain open through the next fiscal year and the Office of Mental Health will begin a public process to discuss the future of the services provided to those children in need, as stated in a release sent to The Bee. “I have been proud to work with community leaders and parents in making this issue a top priority,” Gallivan said. “Many of us believe the idea of transferring these patients to an adult oriented facility like the Buffalo Psychiatric Center is unacceptable because it could jeopardize their mental health and wellbeing.”

Assemblyman Michael Kearns has been involved with the effort to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center open.

Reflecting on what has been accomplished, the assemblyman said he has been a part of many different fights throughout his political career, but what he is most proud of is that this was a team effort.

“Everybody has worked together in a cohesive way for one priority, and that’s the children,” Kearns said.

Now that this is the second consecutive year that the center has been saved, Kearns said it’s time to work on a plan and a strategy to permanently take closing the center off the table and eliminate the option of moving the children to Buffalo.

“Getting the facts behind that is something that I think we need to start moving forward on,” he said.

Once the proposed design for a planned children’s facility at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center is established, the Office of Mental Health will invite community stakeholders, legislative members and others to provide input on the proposals before any further action is taken.

Kearns said the chair of the mental health committee has expressed a desire to come to West Seneca for the purpose of holding public hearings.

“I met with the commissioner last week, and she couldn’t give me a good answer on what the benefit would be, how services would be improved. She could only talk about some savings,” he said. “When it comes to mental health for our children, you shouldn’t let the accounts be the final decision on the type of care we give our young people.”

Kearns said that from his conversations with the Office of Mental Health and the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, he has been promised openness and transparency with plans despite that the offices do not have plans currently.

“That concerns me,” he said. “I would like to see the state sit down with all the different stakeholders and come up with a strategy and plan to keep the Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca and to formally work with us to make sure we get the best possible service for the kids.”

The Office of Mental Health will also provide information on funding and services that would be made available to children and families, including transportation, family engagement programs and adequate security.

“Over the next several months, I look forward to meeting with families and others to find a long-term solution to provide the special care that these children require in an environment that allows them and their families to feel safe and comfortable,” Gallivan said.

The assemblyman said he has been inspired by the children at the center since he became involved with the effort to keep the center open, and hopes to be able to put his handprint on the wall in the center where so many children and families have placed theirs.

“The kids are the winners, and maybe we can put our hands up on the wall one of these days,” Kearns said.

“It’s a great win for everyone, but most importantly, it’s a great win for the kids and the families,” Kearns said. “When you’re making good decisions, you need to deal with facts and not passion.”

The West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center serves emotionally disturbed children between the ages of 4 and 18 years. As of mid-March, the facility had 46 inpatients and a wait list of 16. The center opened in 1970 and serves children from 19 Western New York counties.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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