Lawmakers Renew Call to Keep WNYCPC Open, Children And Adult Patients Separate
WEST SENECA, N.Y. -- It's a place kids from 19 counties turn to for help treating a range of mental issues. When they're discharged from the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center, they leave their mark.
"There's handprints on the wall, and they leave those handprints for a reason," said Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D- Buffalo. "They want to encourage new patients coming in so they don't feel as though they're alone."
The center recently got some encouraging news itself: funding for it was included in this year's budget, but lawmakers say this is the third year in a row they've had to fight for the money.
Officials, along with community members, gathered Wednesday to again speak against a possible plan to close the center and transfer young patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. State lawmakers have worked to keep the facility funded and keep its young patients out of an institution that also treats adults.
"You can't expect the same treatment with kids as you have with adults. You have pediatricians, or you have child psychologists," said David Chudy, a retired social worker.
State lawmakers are now saying enough is enough. This week, Kearns sent a letter to the commissioner of the state Office of Mental Health asking for a permanent funding solution.
The letter details a weekend attack on a 14-year-old girl. An outpatient of the Buffalo Psych Center allegedly ran onto the girl's porch and choked her.
"I wanted to reach out to the commissioner because she has stated many times on the record that people would be safe there so, the policies could really impact the safety of our community," said Kearns of Commissioner Ann Marie T. Sullivan.
The Office of Mental Health says if children were transferred to the psych center, they'd be in their own unit with intensive security. It says they wouldn't have contact with adult patients.
But supporters of this facility say they want young people to be able to continue to leave their mark in a place families have come to depend on.