Public Hearing Looks At Children's Mental Health Programs In WNY

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Supporters of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center met with local leaders and state health professionals Friday to talk about the future of mental health care for children in Western New York, including the center.

"My handprint is on that wall. That handprint symbolized the hard work, the journey, and the struggles that I overcame when I walked out,” said former WNY CPC patient Marissa Divencenzo.

A heated issue since October 2013, the state could potentially close the West Seneca location and merge it with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in the Elmwood Village. The center is currently under a one-year reprieve from closing.

The state Office of Mental Health says a proposed facility at the psych center campus would be a completely separate center, including outdoor space solely for young patients.

"OMH believes that the movement of Western Children's and the current staff the same number of services would be available in the new facility and the same quality of care would be provided,” stated Ann Marie Sullivan, the Commissioner of the Office of Mental Health.

Still, CPC supporters were not convinced. They said the current location allows for privacy and an ideal setting for treatment.

"I appreciated the confidential nature of the campus towards our needs. My sisters’ angst about reentering the mass public was able to be addressed in safety of the campus grounds,” remarked Melanie Porter. Her sister was a former patient at WNY CPC.

Richard Lipsitz, the president of the WNY Area Labor Federation added, "If you move the children over to Elmwood and Forest, they're going to see adults whether they have direct contact with them or not. They're going to look at that and say 'That's my future.' Why would we do that when the option is to be at an open-air, beautiful campus where they can actually get better?”

And while no decisions have been made yet, OMH will soon be assembling a joint task force to look at the potential merger and asking the public for input on design sometime in late fall.

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