Weekly Feature

2016-12-28 / Editorial

Psychiatric Center move targets WNY’s most vulnerable citizens

Assemblyman, 140th District
ROBIN L. SCHIMMINGER

Handprints on the wall. These are the first images you’ll see at the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center. Children and adolescents leaving the center leave their imprint by placing the paper cutouts of their hands on the wall, giving hope to a new set of patients walking through the doors. The message is clear: “I received healing here, and you can, too.” I’ve seen these handprints myself, as well as the rest of the facility, in West Seneca during a tour where I learned of the tremendous healing that takes place every day there inside and outside its walls in the bucolic setting. Families from eight counties across Western New York use the inpatient services at the center.

Despite the healing that these handprints symbolize, the state’s administration has decided to move forward with shutting the facility. Unless something drastic changes, it will be moved from West Seneca to a new unit within the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, which has long served adult patients only and is located at Elmwood and Forest avenues in the City of Buffalo. The move is slated for completion by the end of 2018.

The administration’s reasons for merging the two centers are varied. Proponents say patients will see better access to outpatient mental health services in the city, because it’s better connected to other nearby facilities.

The state Office of Mental Health projects that it will save money by consolidating two centers into one. The claimed savings have been approximated at $4 million. Even if the savings may be there, it doesn’t mean they are worth it. My office has heard from many families who want the center to stay in West Seneca because of the healing that has taken place there, healing they argue — and I believe — wouldn’t happen as effectively in a more chaotic setting in the city.

They attribute the calm, quiet, pastoral setting in West Seneca to what put their child on the path toward restoration of health.

I have been in contact with the Save Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center Coalition, and am in agreement with one of its main concerns about the new center. It would put children and adolescents in the same facility as registered sex offenders.

Officials claim that there would be no co-mingling and that the youth facilities would be completely separate from the adults, but it is a concern nonetheless. Additionally, some families from outside the city find traveling into the city difficult, sometimes intimidating and even stressful. Children are our most vulnerable citizens. They deserve our protection. Many children who arrive at the center have already been traumatized in some way. They deserve our very best, and our very best means staying in West Seneca.

If you also feel strongly about this issue, contact the Office of the Governor. His phone number is 1-518-474-8390, and his mailing address is the following: NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224.

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