(WEST SENECA, NEW YORK) – Lost in the shuffle of a number of high-profile Labor events, actions and Strikes over the past several weeks was news that the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) – which has been targeted for merger with the Adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center, had received yet another one-year reprieve to stay in West Seneca.
However, for representatives from the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the Public Employees Federation (PEF), who’ve been part of an overall effort by a number of groups and elected officials that have joined together in an effort to keep the Children’s Psychiatric Center exactly where it is - the goal now is to bring about a “permanent solution” after three straight, one-year reprieves.
“I’m ‘disappointed and frustrated’ - but it’s ‘better than it closing,’” Dave Chudy - a PEF Retiree and Coordinator of the group - Save Our WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center, recently told WNYLaborToday.com. “We’re continuing to push for a ‘long-term solution.’ We’re ‘not going to give up.’ It’s a ‘war of attrition.’”
However, the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) still stands firm on its mission to downsize the number of psychiatric centers in the state – which was first unveiled back in July 2013 and when all learned of its plan to move WNYCPC and incorporate it into the adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center, despite continued public and patient backlash that there’s no real need to move the Children’s Center from its sprawling, wooded and tranquil base of care in rural West Seneca into a urban location where adults are also housed.
But several weeks ago, in April, the State Legislature once again included funding for the WNYCPC in the 2016-2017 budget, keeping it open until the end of March 2017.
“We ‘are grateful,’” CSEA Western Region 6 President Flo Tripi told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper. “We went about the ‘right way’ in doing it (getting the reprieve) through ‘increasing’ public awareness. And - we ‘reinforced the fact’ that ‘no matter how careful you are,’ it would be in the ‘same building’ as adults. You ‘fear something’ (bad’s) going to happen.’”
Both Chudy and Tripi praised a number of area state-elected officials, including Robert Ortt, Mickey Kearns, Patrick Gallivan, Crystal People-Stokes, Tim Kennedy and Cathy Young, who worked with Labor Representatives, community activists and family members of the affected children to garner a great amount of public support to, hopefully, permanently save the West Seneca facility.
In an interview with The Buffalo News, State Assemblyman Michael Kearns - a South Buffalo Democrat, said: “The children ‘belong’ in West Seneca. The place is ‘rural, peaceful and therapeutic.’ 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.’ There’s ‘a reason why’ they separated the adults and the children more than forty years ago,” ”
The WNYCPC, which opened in 1970, serves 19 Western New York Counties and has been there over the years for a countless number of emotionally disturbed children between the ages of four and 18. The facility reportedly has 46 inpatients and a waiting list of 16.
On another front, the WNYCPC received a 99% rating in 2012, as well as special designation in being in the top 10% of all hospitals accredited by the Illinois-Based Joint Commission across the United States, and has the lowest re-hospitalization rates in New York State out of all children and adult facilities. The Joint Commission is an Independent/Non-Profit Organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care facilities and programs, mostly hospitals, in the country – both public and private.
Those who support keeping WNYCPC in West Seneca open have stayed on track, saying there’s “no need” to mix children into an adult psychiatric center, for many obvious reasons – noting - again - the facility in West Seneca is a tranquil and sprawling one, which helps in the process of positively serving those impacted children.
“We will ‘keep on being verbal and outspoken,’” Chudy told WNYLaborToday.com of what the Save Our WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center group plans to do in the coming weeks and months. “We will continue to lobby to our State Representatives, ‘all of whom are sticking with us and opposing’ its move.”
Meanwhile, Tripi told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper that she was “optimistic” a long-term solution could be forged in the time to come.
“I think we have ‘enough’ legislators on our side,” she said.
PEF represents a little more than 100 Workers at the West Seneca Facility. The CSEA represents another 80 employed at WNYCPC.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: For More Information on the fight to stop the merger of the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center into the Adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center, visit: http://saveourwnycpc.org/index.htm. You can also read WNYLaborToday.com’s February 2nd Labor News Story, Headlined: WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center Advocates To Take Part In State Mental Health Hearing In Albany Wednesday, Will Introduce Alternative To Stop Merger Into Adult Buffalo Psych Center, and Your On-Line Labor Newspaper’s September 2nd, 2015 Labor News Story, Headlined: Public Isn’t Buying OMH Design Reveal Of A Children’s Psychiatric Center At Adult Buffalo Facility - Looks More Like A New-Style Urban Prison Than Tranquil Center Of Care In Rural West Seneca.