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W. Seneca Children's Psych Center still on road to closure in approved NYS budget

WNY Children's Psychiatric Center

The state budget approved Sunday night and sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not include an extension of life in West Seneca for the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center.

State Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblymember Michael Kearns have been fighting to block the governor's plan to close the unit in West Seneca and move the entire program and the kids being treated into an adult care building on the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Albany has started the process to get construction bids for the major reconstruction of a building on Forest Avenue, but those bids are not in yet.

Gallivan said he cannot understand why the push is on for a way out of prisons and detention centers for kids at this same time.

"It's baffling to me, that we've got people focusing on young 16- and 17-year-olds who commit crimes, making sure we separate those, take those out of adult jails and yet by the same token we are taking our most vulnerable, these young victims and looking to move them in with adults at the Buffalo Psych Center and I just think that's simply wrong."

Kearns said the two legislators are not giving up. He said there is new information about what is going on inside the adult building, including three staff members being assaulted by patients, not just the one-staffer BPC has admitted to.

They say the opportunity was offered to keep the center in West Seneca for another year or two, but they turned it down to seek a permanent decision. Kearns said the goal is good care for the patients.

"Make sure that the children receive the best possible care and as we see time and time again, I spoke on the Assembly floor, the numbers don't lie, the lowest re-institutional rate than  any other facility in the state, a top ten hospital rating in the country, with a 99.99 rating, the lowest re-institutional rate," Kearns said."

Albany said the shift would save $3 million that would be spent on mental health care out in the community.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.