Weekly Feature

2017-06-22 / Editorial

One vote to change fate of children’s futures

Bee Editorial

A little more than two years ago, a hearing was held at Buffalo City Hall, bringing to light stories of hurt and healing, desperation and hope as patients and advocates spoke about their experiences with the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center.

Tears were shed by many during the testimonies detailing the angst to be found in the state’s mental health system.

Through this experience, the community pushed to be heard by the state in regard to a plan to close the children’s center and move the patients into the Buffalo Psychiatric Center where they would be in the same building as adults.

Today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sits with the power to change the lives of countless young patients who will come to depend on treatment for survival. His decision for or against a bill preventing the merging of the children’s center with the Buffalo center and prohibiting the collocation of the children’s center is what stands between hope and heartache.

The bill requires the children’s center 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.

Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan argues that the move is not about money but about offering more for children who are struggling with mental illness. She claims that moving the children would allow more money to be available to extend the services being offered to them, and placing them in an urban setting would provide more opportunities.

After listening to the testimonies in May 2015 of children and their families who have fought through mental illness and found refuge in the calm, spacious, natural setting of the children’s center, it is questionable whether a move would truly be in the best interest of the children.

Children are only hospitalized because their illness has caused them to be unsafe in a traditional environment, as pointed out by a mental health professional whose sister had been hospitalized at the children’s center.

The facility allows children to leave the confines of their living space without risk of danger. They can play and experience the world beyond their own troubles. A city setting would not offer this same freedom.

The fate of so many unfortunately rests in the hands of one individual.

Governor, do right by these children and support this bill.

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