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Judge declines to dismiss suit to keep WNY Children's Psychiatric Center open

A state Supreme Court justice Thursday declined the state's request to dismiss a lawsuit that aims to keep the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center open in West Seneca.

Justice Catherine Nugent Panepinto did not renew, however, a restraining order she had issued earlier this month which temporarily barred Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo from vetoing a bill that bars the state from moving the children's unit to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and required the state to halt renovations at the Buffalo facility so that it could accommodate children.

The judge's restraining order expired Thursday. An advocacy group trying to stop the Cuomo administration from closing the West Seneca facility did not seek a new order.

On July 20, Appellate Court Judge Patrick H. NeMoyer had stayed Panepinto's temporary restraining order at the request of the Cuomo administration.

Thursday, New York asked Panepinto to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the Coalition to Save the Children's Psychiatric Center saying that group did not have standing to sue. While the coalition had supported its lawsuit with affidavits from former patients of the psychiatric center, it had not filed any from current patients or their guardians.

To resolve the issue of standing, Panepinto gave the coalition 10 days to obtain and file an affidavit from a current patient or their guardian.

The two sides are due back in Panepinto's court in September.

Cuomo and the state’s mental health office maintain that shutting down the suburban facility would save the state money, and the state would be able to provide community-based services to 1,000 additional children and families with the savings.  Moving the children's unit to 400 Forest Ave. would also centrally locate the children's psychiatric center and its services.

The coalition says housing adolescent patients at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center would be dangerous because adults are also treated there, although the state has pledged the adults and children would be kept apart in separate facilities.

"We are not discontinuing WNYCPC," said Assistant Attorney General Christopher L. Boyd, referring to the children's center. "It is simply moving."

About two dozen former patients and their relatives were in court as Steven M. Cohen, the coalition's attorney, argued to keep the children's psychiatric center open in West Seneca.

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