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E. Niagara to open child psych unit

A new child psychiatric unit is to open in late March or early April in Eastern Niagara Hospital, spokeswoman Carolyn Moore said Friday.

Moore said school psychologists from all over the county have been phoning to remind Moore to let them know when the new unit is open.

It would fill a gap in Niagara County health care that opened when Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center closed its child psychiatric unit, called Bridges, in May 2008.

The demand is strong, Moore said. In 2006, 1,068 Niagara County children ages 5 to 17 received psychiatric care in a hospital.

The 12-bed unit has been under construction since early fall on the third floor of the Lockport hospital. Moore said the space formerly was occupied by a pediatric unit of physicians' offices.

Eastern Niagara Hospital, formerly Lockport Memorial Hospital, has been approved for a $574,000 HEAL NY grant from Albany to reimburse the hospital for the money it's spending upfront to construct the new unit, although the funds have not been received yet. The inpatient psychiatric unit for children ages 5 to 17 will enable those needing mental health treatment to get it in Niagara County.

Since Bridges closed, psychiatrists have had to send juveniles with mental woes to Erie County Medical Center or other spots outside Niagara County, Moore said.

The hospital mailed out a fundraising solicitation in late November. Moore wouldn't say how much that brought in, but she said contributions continue to arrive daily.

"The fundraising we're doing now will supplement any construction shortfall or be used for more equipment for the unit," Moore said.

Lamparelli Construction of Cheektowaga is the general contractor on the job.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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