By Michael P. Kearns
Earlier this year, I participated in a public hearing regarding the proposed closure of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center, which some say is a difficult decision. However, to me it is clear and I will continue to fight against relocation because, on virtually every metric, this institution excels and exceeds other similar institutions in New York State.
The center has the lowest 30- and 90-day readmission rates in all of New York. This is important from a long-term cost perspective because readmissions for mental health care over the course of a lifetime can result in many thousands of dollars for the treatment of a single person. Quality care and early intervention with respect to mental illness is now seen as essential to helping people with mental illness successfully cope with their disease.
The center is outperforming all other state-run facilities across New York. Why would one rationally alter such care when it is performing at such a high level? Further, why would the move be talked about as set in stone when it is providing such significant long-term savings to New York State over the course of a patient’s life?
Parents, former patients, family members of patients, workers, community activists and academics all reasonably and rationally countered the Office of Mental Health’s assertions at a recent hearing with even-tempered testimony, firsthand knowledge, research and enlightened arguments. The existing facility provides a holistic approach toward resident care. We learned that the family’s privacy is respected, with plenty of room to meet without having sensitive information shared with others at the facility or in the broader community.
The tranquil surrounding provides a much-needed pause for both the children who are undergoing significant mental trauma and the families desperately trying to protect them from hurt, harm and danger. The facility comprehensively treats the child through activities, environment, family involvement, education and treatment with proper levels of medication.
A former patient stated that she spent time in the Elmira facility and saw several adults, prompting her to wonder if she would become one of them and was this her future. For her, this was a disturbing experience. This was in sharp contrast to the OMH testimony. Several of the young adults who were former residents explained that there was freedom to grow and experience group activities, which helped them to be children and not outsiders.
Finally, I am adamant on this issue of not moving this facility and will be working with my colleagues in the Western New York delegation to keep the momentum of the last two years going to keep this facility open permanently in West Seneca.
Michael P. Kearns represents the 142nd District in the New York State Assembly.