(WEST SENECA, NEW YORK) - The Save Our WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) is criticizing the New York State Office Of Mental Health (OMH) and its commissioner, Dr. Anne Sullivan, for distributing what it describes as “patently false information” regarding a state plan to consolidate the West Seneca children’s facility into the adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
The group is taking issue with OMH Commissioner Sullivan’s comments that were contained an a letter of reply to New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, which the group has provided to WNYLaborToday.com, along with rundown list of OMH allegations and WNYCPC’s rebuttals – which it has tagged as realities – in order to set the record straight.
“We feel there were a number of ‘disingenuous’ statements made by Dr. Sullivan in her reply letter to State AFL-CIO President Cilento, so we’ve decided to provide (WNYLaborToday.com) with a ‘point-counterpoint’ rundown,” 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) – told Your On-Line Labor Newspaper.
The controversial stand the OMH continues to take in regards to a decision it has made to move the WNYCPC from Suburban West Seneca to the Adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center recently caught the attention of the 2.5-million Member New York State AFL-CIO - with Labor Federation President Cilento telling OMH Commissioner Sullivan in a letter: “We urge you to find alternatives other than ‘disinvesting in our commitment to our most vulnerable population - our children.’” (WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: For More, Read Your On-Line Labor Newspaper’s July 25th Report, Headlined: The New York State AFL-CIO ‘Stands Up’ For The WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center – President Cilento Tells NYS Office Of Mental Health ‘Not To Move’ Facility To Adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center Campus)
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.
In a response to OMH Commissioner Sullivan’s response to State AFL-CIO President Cilento’s letter, the WNYCPC advocates described her correspondence as containing “patently false information” regarding the consolidation plan for children to be moved into the adult facility on the Buffalo Psychiatric Center campus.
They wrote: The Office of Mental Health has yet to respond to any of the questions regarding safety, adequacy of staffing, and risk management for the move. These questions were submitted during the Summer 2015 as part of the official stakeholder comment period through both verbal communication at hearings, through our legislators, and on the on-line portal. None of us have received any response from the Office of Mental Health regarding our concerns. Mental health providers, advocates, legislators, and former patients have all testified that they feel this move is a foolish cost-cutting measure that will negatively impact the most vulnerable population we have sworn to protect. The legislators in all involved districts have opposed this move based on constituent feedback and former patents have testified at all hearings regarding the traumatic experiences they’ve had when engaging with mentally ill adults in co-located settings.
The following is a point-counterpoint rebuttal from the WNYCPC to the comments made in Sullivan’s reply letter to Cilento that was provided to WNYLaborToday.com:
OMH Allegation: Dr. Sullivan “assures” us that all of the spaces will be completely separate from adults on the campus.
WNYCPC Reality: Dr. Sullivan nor OMH has yet to share adequate staffing plans, security features or policies and procedures to back this claim. In 2015 alone, there were 56 elopements from the adult facility. This doesn’t make families and patients feel that the children will be safe.
OMH Allegation: Dr. Sullivan has stated there is a plan to remove all sex offenders from the Buffalo Psychiatric Center campus.
WNYCPC Reality: This is the first any advocates or community leaders have heard of such a plan. Considering she later claims this process is “transparent, open, and collaborative,” it’s surprising that no one has yet been told of this plan. This was never raised by OMH during roundtables and hearings last year. Where are these adults going? When were they planning on informing the public? No such plan has been vetted by the community, legislature or advocates involved with this facility.
OMH Allegation: Dr. Sullivan insists that addressing the deficiencies with the existing structure would be too costly. She argues that there have been no global improvements made to the Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca since 1969.
WNYCPC Reality: This is untrue. Here is a list of upgrades that have been made to the West Seneca Center with corresponding dates. It should be mentioned Dr. Sullivan and OMH have never been willing to provide a comparison of cost to improve the current facility as opposed to the costly move to BPC.
According to WNYCPC representatives, the following upgrades and renovations have been made at the West Seneca facility over the years: A new rubber membrane roof and all new mental mansards and soffits in 2005; New public address system that was installed in 2008; Resurfacing of multiple road ways and parking lots in 2015; A new electrical service in 2010; A newly-renovated education department in 2008; Auditorium upgrades in 2013; A newly-renovated gymnasium - Years 2009 through 2016; Office and bedroom renovations - Years 2006 through 2011; Rebuilt boilers and new pump motors in 2014; A new water main hook-up and backflow building that was built in 2010; Multiple asbestos abatement and renovations throughout the buildings; New sidewalks across all of facility; Multiple courtyard renovations (including a playground and a basketball court); Many energy-efficient mechanical replacements and upgrades throughout the building, which makes the facility the second-lowest energy costing facility in all of OMH buildings at $1.42 per square foot; Multiple upgrades to the storm sewer system; New fencing in two courtyards in 2009; A new pool pump and filtration system; Several energy saving projects, including installation of occupancy sensors through all hallways; and an Upgrade on all building chiller pumps and the installation of frequency drives.
OMH Allegation: Dr. Sullivan has argued this move will improve access for half of the individuals seeking services at WNYCPC. Dr. Sullivan mentions the second-largest referral county is Niagara County.
WNYCPC Reality: The families living in Niagara County have not supported a move to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center Campus. Their feedback has been so strong that their State Senator, Robert Ortt, has continued to oppose the move based on security concerns and protests from former patients. Through 2014, less than 25% of total admissions have been from Buffalo. And there is not one former youth or parent that has testified at the hearings and legislative roundtables that prefers the proposed location.
OMH Allegation: Dr. Sullivan claims this campus has been designed with the involvement of community stakeholders.
WNYCPC Reality: Stakeholders were told they were not allowed to voice opposition to the move at any of the meetings. They were told they could not discuss the premise or safety of the move, but were allowed to comment on paint colors and style of physical plant. OMH stacked these stakeholder meetings with staff in programs funded by OMH. They disregarded the comments given by legislators and advocates at the roundtable meetings and still have yet to answer ONE question submitted by the advocates with concerns regarding the move from those hearings that occurred in the Summer of 2015.
OMH Allegation: Dr. Sullivan claims the savings from this move will result in significant investments in community services and supports.
WNYCPC Reality: If this is true, then why haven’t they responded to commentary from a family that was repeatedly sent to the Emergency Department when the ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) Team didn’t show up? Is this what OMH’s version of pre-investment looks like?
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