Weekly Feature



2016-12-22 / Front Page

Children’s Psychiatric Center advocates urge Cuomo to retain facility

by NICK KONOTOPSKYJ
Reporter


Assemblyman Michael Kearns addresses the crowd at his office on Tuesday morning in an effort to “join hands” in the fight to keep the Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca. Several elected officials, former patients, families and community members gathered to place their handprints on the wall behind Kearns to support the cause. 
Photo by Nick Konotopskyj Assemblyman Michael Kearns addresses the crowd at his office on Tuesday morning in an effort to “join hands” in the fight to keep the Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca. Several elected officials, former patients, families and community members gathered to place their handprints on the wall behind Kearns to support the cause. Photo by Nick Konotopskyj It has become a tradition for patients at the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center to leave their handprints on the wall once they finish their treatment and leave the facility. The reasoning behind this is that it provides inspiration and hope for the existing patients.

On Tuesday, community members, former patients, families and several elected officials met at the Union Road office of Assemblyman Michael Kearns to leave their handprint on his wall. However, this time the act isn’t directed toward the patients.

Instead, it is a message for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Office of Mental Health to leave the Children’s Psychiatric Center where it is and avoid a merger with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

The WNYCPC, located at 1010 East and West Road, West Seneca, serves children between the ages of 3 and 18 who need emotional help. The center opened in 1970 and serves 19 counties in New York State.

Kearns began Tuesday’s event with a message directed not only to Cuomo, but all of Western New York.

“We are not only reaching out to elected officials and family members, but people in the community,” Kearns said. “We will continue to put these boards up, and we want people to put their hand on the wall. I hope that someday Gov. Cuomo will put his hands on the wall and help save this institution.”

The Children’s Psychiatric Center was built because the Buffalo Psychiatric Center stopped treating children. As cited in a letter to the editor from Kearns and state Sen. Patrick Gallivan in last week’s Bee, the decision was because, “doctors determined that adolescents have specific and special needs when it comes to mental health treatment.” Gallivan, believes that it makes no sense to put children in an environment with adult psychiatric patients.

“There is no clinical evidence to suggest that it’s better to have these kids treated in an institutional setting as opposed to the setting they are already in,” he said.

Lydia Gaskin, who was a patient at the CPC in 2013, placed her handprint on the wall and according to her mother, Janet, the facility has provided so much to their family.

“I would urge everybody to do whatever you can to help keep CPC open,” Gaskin said. “They saved her [Lydia’s] life and many other lives.”

Dave Chudy, advocate and chairman of Save Our Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center, believes that sending the children to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center would send the wrong message to them and their families.

“We at Children’s Psych tell them that they can go back to their families, schools, neighborhoods and you can grow up and be a functional adult in our community,” Chudy said. “They are going to see 40- to 50-year-old psych patients and think, ‘This could be me in 30 years.’ Where is the hope in that?”

Tuesday’s event concluded with Kearns, Gallivan, town officials and community members placing their handprints on the wall to show their support.

“This is not a couple people shouting, but this is all levels of government in Western New York,” Chudy said. “Usually it’s a bad facility that they try to merge or move, not the best facility in the state.”

More information about the center is available at saveourwnycpc.org. To contact the Save Our Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center advocates, email saveourwesternnewyorkCPC@gmail.com.

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