For the third year in a row, the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca has dodged the state-budget axe and will remain open – at least for another year.
“It’s good news,” Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns said Wednesday. “We’ve saved it for three years in a row now. However, we need a permanent solution, because we want to keep those children and their families safe.”
The State Legislature included the funding for the center in the new budget, meaning that the center – which currently houses 46 children – will remain open through next March 31, the assemblyman said.
Kearns, a South Buffalo Democrat, made his comments before a Wednesday press conference announcing the one-year reprieve. He, Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, other elected officials, community activists and family members of the affected children gathered to support a more permanent saving of the facility.
“The children belong in West Seneca,” Kearns said. “The place is rural, peaceful and therapeutic.”
In July 2013, the state Office of Mental Health introduced a plan to downsize the number of psychiatric centers in the state. Part of that proposal included moving the young residents of the West Seneca facility onto the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
In a recent letter to the mental health office, Kearns urged that children should not be commingled with adults suffering from significant mental illness.
“There’s a reason why they separated the adults and the children more than 40 years ago,” Kearns said Wednesday.
The assemblyman cited a recent incident that he said underscores the need to keep the populations separate and leave the young patients in their safer location. In that incident, a recent outpatient near the Buffalo Psychiatric Center ran onto a porch of a home, attacking a 14-year-old girl by choking her.
Kearns, Kennedy, Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, and others interested in saving the Children’s Psychiatric Center also have pointed out that the facility is a regional asset, serving children from 19 counties.