Supporters of the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center have asked a judge to keep the governor from vetoing a bill that would keep the center in West Seneca.
The state Senate and Assembly both unanimously approved legislation that would block the Cuomo administration from moving the children's center in West Seneca to the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. The bill is waiting Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's signature.
The lawsuit seeks to prevent the governor from vetoing the bill.
Attorney Steven M. Cohen, the attorney for Save Our Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center Coalition, said the group is seeking a restraining order to prevent the veto and to prevent state Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie T. Sullivan from taking steps to transfer the young patients to Buffalo.
Cohen maintains neither the governor nor the commissioner have the authority to close the facility without the State Legislature, unless it is not meeting the needs of patients. He said immediate action is necessary to prevent renovations at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and other steps from being taken, which he said are unsettling to patients and their families.
"It's going to be a waste of money. As time goes on as more and more efforts are undertaken to effectuate the merger, it will become harder and harder to undo that," Cohen said.
Lydia Gaskin of Angola said she was a patient at the center in 2013. She and other former patients, family members, community activists, health care providers and others gathered Thursday at Firemen's Park in West Seneca - a few hundred yards from the brick facility - to talk about the legal action they are taking to prevent the move of the Children's Psychiatric Center (CPC) to the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
"I truly believe that Buffalo could not recreate the success of this facility. I thank CPC with my life. I would not be here today without it," Gaskin said. "I would like to personally say to Gov. Cuomo, I would not be here today without CPC."
Cuomo administration officials maintain closing the West Seneca center and moving the juvenile patients to Buffalo would put them closer to a range of community-based health care services. They said children would be kept away from adults there, with separate treatment areas, entrances and recreation areas.
Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, and Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, worked to get the legislation passed unanimously in the Legislature.
"One person made the decision to take it away and that was the governor," Kearns said.
The state facility on East and West Road has been threatened with closure for four years. The governor’s plans to move the center and its programming to the grounds of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center have been met with fierce opposition by staff, families, former patients and elected officials.