Weekly Feature

2017-06-22 / Front Page

Bill to save WNYCPC hits Gov. Cuomo’s desk

Save our children
by JENNIFER WATERS
Editor

State legislators have voted to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca. Now they are urging the governor to do his part and sign the bill into law.

(See editorial on page four)

For years, advocates have fought to keep the facility open to serve children ages 4 to 18 in the rural, natural setting of the West Seneca facility. Talk of combining the children’s center with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in downtown Buffalo has been met with determined opposition.

Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Michael Kearns joined advocates of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center on Friday at Firemen’s Park in West Seneca, across from the children’s center, to announce the passage of their legislation to block the merger.

The bill, which passed the Assembly and Senate unanimously, prevents the merging of the children’s center with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center by amending the New York State Mental Health Law. The bill prohibits the collocation of the children’s center and requires it to be operated as a separate and distinct entity, both organizationally and physically.

With the bill making it through both the Assembly and Senate successfully, it now heads to the governor for his signature.

Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo has also submitted legislation asking his colleagues in the Legislature to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the law.

“Thank you to all the members of the NYS Assembly and Senate who unanimously approved changes to the Mental Health Law that would prohibit the children’s center from being combined with an adult center. Rarely do we see such vote tallies in Albany, and this speaks to the importance of this measure,” Lorigo said.

At this time, the governor has three options: sign the bill into law; ignore the bill, making it law; or veto the bill and propel the relocation of children into the adult facility in Buffalo.

This comes as the Office of Mental Health continues plans to close the center in West Seneca and move those services to the adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

Despite repeated urging from community activists and lawmakers, the Office of Mental Health has not provided detailed reasoning as to the necessity of the merger, Kearns said.

“At the heart of this continued fight is doing what is best for the children and adolescents seeking treatment at the WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center,” Kearns said. “Throughout years of questioning, we have yet to hear any evidence as to whether there will be improved quality of care to these patients.

“These kids seeking treatment have already been put through experiences that no child should have to endure,” he said. “They are seeking a calm, therapeutic environment to be treated and live a full, prosperous life. That simply is not possible if this facility is moved to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, and that is why it is imperative Gov. Cuomo sign this bill into law.”

Gallivan argued that medical reports and science have conclusively stated that youth and adolescents need to be treated separately from adults to receive the best care possible.

“Throughout our fight to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca, I have asked the Office of Mental Health to provide a clinical reason for merging this facility with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center,” Gallivan said. “To date, no one has been able to explain how such a move would benefit the children treated here.

“This center is rated among the best in the nation, and the idea of merging it with an adult facility in an urban setting is not fair to the children and families who need our care and support,” Gallivan said. “I urge the governor to sign this legislation and keep Western New York CPC as a stand-alone facility.”

The Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center received a 99.9 percent rating by the Joint Commission on Accredited Healthcare Organizations in 2012 and was given a special designation as being in the top 10 percent of hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission in the nation.

According to Kearns, the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center leads all other facilities treating children in the 30-day and 90-day readmission rates, a statistic that shows that the long-term institutionalization and hospitalization costs are drastically reduced during the course or life span of the person needing behavioral health services.

“The WNY center has done amazing work for our young people and should remain open in its current location,” Lorigo said. “Thank you to Assemblyman Kearns and Sen. Gallivan for leading the charge, and I encourage my colleagues in the county legislature to show their unanimous support when we vote on Thursday, asking Gov. Cuomo to do the right thing and sign the legislation and protect WNY’s most vulnerable children.”

A Go Fund Me page has been established, which will be used to finance legal action in the event the governor vetoes the bill. Contribute at gofundme.com/saveourwnycpc.

Save Our Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center advocates, including former patients, families, health care workers and legislators, will participate in the West Seneca Community Days parade at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 24, as a reminder to the public of the need to keep the center open in West Seneca.

Supporters of the Children’s Center may visit saveourwnycpc.org to learn how to help.

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