A children's clinic that helped thousands of sexually and physically abused children since its start in 1994 took a hard financial hit this week.
Women and Children's Hospital notified the Lee Gross Anthone Child Advocacy Center that it would no longer provide support for the center's medical staff.
Ask those involved with the center, and they will tell you that it is the medical staff, an experienced group specially trained to identify and treat abuse in children, that made the Child Advocacy Center one of the best of its kind.
"This tears the guts out of the program," said Bonnie Glazer, executive director of Child and Adolescent Treatment Services, the umbrella agency responsible for the center.
The center on Franklin Street handles more than 1,000 cases a year, most of them sexual and almost half involving children younger than 5. It is not closing, but the loss of the medical staff -- two pediatricians, a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse and a secretary -- is a serious blow to quality.
"Our training is unmatched in this community," said Deborah Dee, the nurse practitioner.
Women and Children's is part of the Kaleida Health hospital system, and when Kaleida ends funding at year's end, she and the other two nonphysicians will lose their jobs as well.
"This is a really good program. It works," she said. "And, until you need it, you don't appreciate how much it is worth."
Kaleida Health had received a federal grant for the medical staff. But the hospital system learned last year that it would lose $1.5 million, part of which it used to support the Child Advocacy Center medical staff.
The grant funding is based on a hospital's percentage of Medicaid and uninsured patients. Kaleida Health's percentage decreased enough for it to lose eligibility, though the pediatric hospital's percentage of Medicaid patients remains very high.
The Child Advocacy Center opened in 1994 after years of lobbying locally for improved services to abused children.
In the past, a physically or sexually abused child might have to recount the horror during separate interviews with medical personnel, social workers, police and the district attorney's office. The center brings together all these people and agencies under one child-friendly roof so the victim can receive medical treatment, if necessary, and counseling, and is spared repeated interviews.
Kaleida Health paid for the medical team that examines the children, and team members came from Women and Children's Hospital.
Attempts to obtain money from the state failed.
"It's a difficult decision and an unfortunate reality," said hospital spokesman John Moscato.
As backup, the hospital will continue to have sexual assault examiners available in its emergency room.
Glazer said her agency is searching elsewhere for financial help. But with the end of Kaleida Health's support only weeks away, she's fearful the staff will move on to other jobs.
"These people have worked together for years," she said. "You can't turn it off like a spigot and then turn it back on."