Weekly Feature

2017-01-19 / Front Page

Legislators ask for meeting with Cuomo regarding WNYCPC

by JENNIFER WATERS
Editor


A letter calling for action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to save the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center is presented by Sen. Chris Jacobs, left; Assemblyman Michael Kearns; and Sens. Patrick Gallivan and Robert Ortt outside the Buffalo Psychiatric Center on Friday as advocates for families and patients look on. A letter calling for action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to save the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center is presented by Sen. Chris Jacobs, left; Assemblyman Michael Kearns; and Sens. Patrick Gallivan and Robert Ortt outside the Buffalo Psychiatric Center on Friday as advocates for families and patients look on. Legislators are requesting a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss efforts by the state Office of Mental Health to close the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center facility and transfer adolescent patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan, Assemblyman Michael Kearns, and Sens. Robert Ortt and Chris Jacobs are again calling on the governor and the Office of Mental Health to keep the center at its current location in West Seneca.

On Jan. 12, the legislative delegation gathered in front of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center to share a letter, signed by a bipartisan group of senators and assembly members from Western and Central New York, that will be sent to the governor, urging him to keep the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center open.

“I have yet to hear a compelling argument that closing the West Seneca facility and moving children and adolescents to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center will improve treatment or outcomes,” Gallivan said. “While this move may in fact save the state some money, the families of patients, mental health experts and others believe it will jeopardize the health and well-being of those currently cared for at the West Seneca location. Moving vulnerable children into the same facility as adults, including sexual predators, simply makes no sense and is not fair to them or their families.”

The center was opened in 1970 and serves patients from 19 New York counties.

It was announced in late November that the governor had decided to move forward with the closing of the center, moving the children currently being treated there into the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, with the issuance of a construction bid solicitation.

The request was filed by the state Dormitory Authority on Nov. 22 and includes a construction estimate of between $11 million and $11.5 million.

“The [Western New York] Children’s Psychiatric Center excels and exceeds all other similar institutions in New York State,” Kearns said. “It makes no sense for the governor to spend $11.5 million to fix something that isn’t broken. My office has received an outpouring of support from the community to keep the [Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center] open in West Seneca.”

During the past several years, Gallivan, Kearns and other legislators have worked with former patients, family members of patients, workers, community activists and academics to keep the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center open.

Ortt, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, said he is disappointed in the unilateral process that has affected the state’s Western New York legislative delegation, advocates and the families of patients at the Children’s Psychiatric Center.

“Despite public outcry and dozens of attempts to keep the consolidation of the facilities from moving forward, the governor and [Office of Mental Health] continuously choose to ignore us and turn their backs on these vulnerable children. That is simply not acceptable. We refuse to be silenced and will continue to fight to prevent the elimination of the Children’s Psychiatric Center and protect the safety of our children,” he said.

Legislators argue that the tranquil surrounding provided at the West Seneca campus is important for the children who are undergoing significant mental trauma and the families desperately trying to protect these children from danger.

The Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center’s core mission is to provide high-quality, comprehensive behavioral health care services to seriously emotionally disturbed children and adolescents, Jacobs said.

“The Buffalo Psychiatric Center has not treated children in more than 40 years because doctors determined that children have specific and special needs and their treatment should be delivered in a separate facility. These children and their families deserve to have the best care possible in the absolute most appropriate environment,” he said.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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