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New acute inpatient unit for youth starting at Buffalo Psych Center

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The Buffalo Psychiatric Center will be home to a new mental health service for youth that the state says is currently not available anywhere in New York.

The state Office of Mental Health and the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities have announced plans to open a new dual diagnosis inpatient unit on the Buffalo Psychiatric Center campus for young people aged 12-17 with co-existing developmental and mental health disabilities.

"In many cases, these individuals are seeking help in Emergency Rooms or our Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Programs (CPEP) units and the care they are receiving does not match their needs," said OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan in making the announcement.

Sullivan said the new state-funded acute treatment unit will also work with a step-down program that will "help discharged youth adjust to a non-inpatient environment and receive transitional services before going home."

OPWDD Acting Commissioner Kerry Delaney said this collaborative approach will "help us tackle the issue of unnecessary long-term hospital stays and ease the treatment into less-restrictive community-based settings for those who need more focused attention."

State Sen. Patrick Gallivan, who has been fighting to keep young people at the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center in West Seneca, is in favor of the youth program on Buffalo's adult campus.

Credit WNY Children's Psychiatric Center
The Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center in West Seneca.

"I'm told that what is being proposed by OMH and OPWDD is a separate and distinct service where you have individuals with a dual or multiple diagnosis and there are no services available at all for those that require that type of service in Western New York," said Gallivan. "They'll be no impact on the children at the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center. These are not the kids that would be ultimately be moved to this new campus. They're targeting a different population with different needs."

Gallivan said the WNY Psych Center has been operating at or near capacity for many years, so he does not believe there is even room for a new service in West Seneca. He said Buffalo may not be "the most ideal location" for the new program, but a currently vacant building there is being re-purposed into a state-of-the-art space for the more specialized care for youth. The state said providers are being sought to operate the program.

What about the safety of children with disabilities on an adult psychiatric campus?

"I remember there were poeple raising safety issues when the kids in West Seneca were to be moved to the Psych Center and that campus. I wasn't so concerned about their safety as about the clinical reasons for the move and what the best treatment was," said Gallivan, "and when you're talking about kids with severe mental issues, a therapeutic setting and the setting matters, and that's what I was most concerned about because there wasn't the science behind an alternative site. That, apparently, is not the case with the type of diagnosis that they're looking to treat here."

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