Weekly Feature

2016-08-11 / Editorial

State should clarify future of WNYCPC

Bee Editorial

Time is again running out for the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center and the vulnerable, emotionally disturbed children dependent on it for healing and reprieve.

In the many years that advocates have fought to keep the center open in West Seneca, the state Office of Mental Health has done one thing consistently — with- hold information from the children, families and communities fearing the center’s imminent closure. The state wants to relocate the center to a separate unit for children on the Buffalo Psychiatric Center campus, which currently houses adults.

There has not been one point in the past three years when questions have been answered directly by the state, and there is no evidence of open communication in the future, given a letter sent by Mental Health Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan. In the letter addressed to Mario Cilento, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and an opponent of the center’s closure, Sullivan states that there are no plans for the Children’s Center currently. Her tone and language say otherwise.

The story she tells is one of unnecessary spending, wasted funds, poor quality service and the promise for a safer future. The reality is that everything these children have come to know as a haven will be taken away, along with their hope for a peaceful future.

Arguments for why the center should remain open for the children have fallen on deaf ears at the state level, with legislators joining in the lines of advocates knocking on doors and demanding answers. Instead, these public servants receive the same information as everyone else: none

No answer as to when the center will close or what it will take to keep it open. No indication of whether the budget will spare the center one more year or if there are funds available for a decade of service.

No. Instead of embracing the center and the children it serves, the state has become yet another nightmare chapter in the lives of those seeking help. The Office of Mental Health has become a bully, beating down children who no longer have a voice. The scope of mental health care and the stigma attached to adults in need has become such a suffocating image that parents no longer can stand by and wait for a verdict on treatment for their children.

Despite the view on the horizon, advocates and the Save Our Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center will not give up the fight. They will continue to be the last line of defense until the end.

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