(WEST SENECA, NEW YORK) – The controversial stand that the New York State’s Office of Mental Health (OMH) has taken in regards to a decision to move the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) from Suburban West Seneca to the Adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center has caught the attention of the 2.5-million Member New York State AFL-CIO – with Labor Federation President Mario Cilento telling OMH Commissioner Dr. Anne Marie Sullivan: “We urge you to find alternatives other than ‘disinvesting in our commitment to our most vulnerable population - our children.’”
In April, the WNYCPC received yet another one-year reprieve to stay in West Seneca when the State Legislature included funding for the WNYCPC in the 2016-2017 budget, keeping it open until the end of March 2017.
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.
But the 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.
Now, the New York State AFL-CIO and its President, Mario Cilento, have gotten involved.
A letter that was sent by Cilento to Sullivan at the end of March was recently provided to WNYLaborToday.com by Dave Chudy - a New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) Retiree and coordinator of the group Save Our Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (http://saveourwnycpc.org).
In his letter to Sullivan Cilento said:
I am writing in support of the effort to keep the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) open and prevent the transfer of patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
We have heard from our (Labor) affiliates and the communities of Western New York that this plan will negatively impact access to quality of care that is currently provided and will mean longer travel times for the affected families.
The WNYCPC cares for emotionally-disturbed children who often suffer from psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
The needs are unique and the appropriate setting is vital to effectiveness.
The inpatient teams of Doctors, Nurses, Social Workers, Therapists and other Direct Care Workers ensure a comprehensive treatment approach specifically designated for children.
The plan to transfer these services to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center is troublesome in terms of the ability to provide the needed children’s services.
The Buffalo Psychiatric Center is designed to serve adults and is not necessarily appropriate for children. The fact that there are sex offenders and other extremely difficult to serve adult populations at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center makes it clear that continuation down this road could be disastrous.
We urge you to find alternatives - other than disinvesting in our commitment to our most vulnerable population - our children.
Thank you for your attention to this very important matter.
Sullivan did respond to Cilento’s letter, but Chudy told WNYLaborToday.com much of what the commissioner outlined and commented on was “disingenuous.” (WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: The Save Our Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center has prepared a counterpoint piece that it has provided to Your On-Line Labor Newspaper, which will publish a second report later this week to address statements made by Commissioner Sullivan in her response letter to New York State AFL-CIO President Cilento.)
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. At last report, the facility had 46 inpatients and a waiting list of 16.
In 2012, the WNYCPC received a 99% rating, 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.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: For More on This Labor News Story, Read Your On-Line Labor Newspaper’s June 14th Report, Headlined: Organized Labor ‘Not As Pleased’ As You Would Think About Yet Another Year Reprieve From NYS For The Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center