Set of Empty Handprints Symbolizes Fight to Stop Relocation of Children's Psychiatric Center

WEST SENECA, N.Y. -- Hope Drive is not just the name of the road that leads to the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center in West Seneca. Lydia Gaskin, who was treated there, says its where she found hope for a healthy life.

"Peace was a big part for me. I needed to feel safe and I needed that comforting environment," Gaskin said. "It had a lot of land, there was no sirens or buses. I could look out when I was not feeling too good and calm down because it's so pretty, and it was definitely a calm environment, which I needed."

Gaskin was diagnosed with bipolar depression, anxiety and PTSD. Her mother says she's one of many patients whose life was saved here.

"I have two children that while continue to struggle daily, will be okay, will contribute in this world, and despite their ugly beginnings in a foreign orphanage, have an opportunity because of CPC to turn their life around," said Sheri Scavone, a parent.

Some families are united in saying their experience wouldn't be the same if the center moved to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, like the state is planning now.

"Back in the 60s and 70s, research was done that not just suggested, that said children should not be co-mingled with adults. Children should not be in the same location as adults," said state Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma.

"Kids need to feel safe, there needs to be a perception of safety so they can begin to heal," said Dave Chudy, an advocate for the families. "There's no way they're going to feel safe in an adult facility."

Advocates maintain children at the CPC are told they can heal and grow up to be functional adults, but if they're moved to Buffalo, that message could get canceled out.

"They're going to see 40, 50-year-old psychiatric patients and how else are they going to think but, 'this is me in 20, 30, 40 years,'" said Chudy. 

"I would not see a future for me, I would not have hope and, I would have just given up completely," Gaskin said.

The families and supporters are sending a message to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Mental Health in the same way those who complete treatment at CPC encourage others: by leaving handprints on the wall before they leave.

"It's there to give hope to future patients," said Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D-Buffalo, "and you would see the handprint on the wall and there was a saying 'Don't give up, you can do it.'"

Those empty prints are for Cuomo, who they hope will save the center instead of moving it.

"We're asking the governor to give us a Christmas miracle," Kearns said.

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