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State lawmakers pass bill to keep WNY Children's Psych Center open

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

By unanimous votes in both the Senate and Assembly, New York State lawmakers have approved legislation that keeps the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center open. The biggest hurdle awaits: convincing Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign it.

State Senator Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Michael Kearns, both of whom represent West Seneca, where the Children's Psychiatric Center is located, appeared Friday morning to announce that the bill was on its way to the governor. The Senate approved legislation last week, while the Assembly followed with passage on Thursday.

The Cuomo Administration is pushing for a merger of the Children's Center with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Opponents of that plan say bringing young patients closer to adult patients puts the children in danger. Gallivan says the data shows the younger population is better treated in their own facility.

"The research shows that kids should be in a place like this," he said. 

The Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center received a 99.9 percent rating by the Joint Commision on Accredited Health Care Organizations in 2012 and was recognized by that body as being among the top ten percent of accredited hospitals in the nation. Supporters of keeping the center open say it also has one of the lowest rates of readmission among centers of its kind.

Kearns urged the governor to "save the children" by signing the legislation.

"We're asking people to contact the governor's office," he said. "You can go to my website, my Facebook page or website, to get the governor's telephone number. You could email him."

Construction is already underway for the proposed children's space at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center but Gallivan suggested what he believes is a better use for it. He recommends it become a space for opioid addiction treatment.

"There's an alcohol treatment center on that campus that is very well respected," Gallivan said. "That would be the ideal place to continue the construction but do the construction so we can help some of these other families that are affected by the heroin and opioid crisis."

Both lawmakers say there have been no formal talks about overriding a veto, but if Governor Cuomo rejects this bill, leaders of both houses could anticipate requests to pursue an override. 

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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