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Citizens' group files lawsuit to keep WNY Children's Psychiatric Center open

WBFO file photo

A citizens' group representing 125 individuals has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Cuomo Administration from moving forward with a plan to close the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center.

The Coalition to Save the Children's Psychiatric Center lawsuit names Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan as defendants. The coalition seeks to block any attempt by the Cuomo Administration to close the West Seneca-based children's center.

State legislators have again voted to keep it open, rather than go along with the administration's plan to move the young patients into newly-built space on the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Critics of that idea say the children's center has proven itself to be effective with one of the nation's lowest rates for re-institutionalizing of patients. Opponents of a merger also argue that putting young patients, some as young as four years old, on the same grounds as adult patients increases safety risks.

WBFO asked Steven Cohen, the attorney representing the coalition, why they feel it necessary to file a lawsuit if there are enough votes available to override a Cuomo veto.

"The governor still has it within his authority to try and strong-arm legislators, Assemblyman and Senators, and say 'I'm going to veto it and want your support to help me veto it, and in return for that I'll give you some pork barrel,'" Cohen said. 

During an appearance in Buffalo on Thursday, Cuomo was asked about the lawsuit filed against him. He did not comment on that litigation but did say he has not yet seen the bill to keep the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center open.

"There is a piece of legislation that was passed to that effect," Cuomo said. "It hasn't yet been sent to me. When it is sent to me, then I will consider the legislation."

The Coalition to Save the Children's Psychiatric Center is made up of former patients, families of patients, mental health professionals and other advocates, Cohen said. He added that more than 2,100 signatures have been collected by people offering their secondary support for the coalition's action.

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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