Threat to close WNY Children’s Psych Center ends; it will stay open
By SHERRY HALBROOK
It took unity and it took years of effort, but PEF has finally succeeded in saving Western NY Children’s Psychiatric Center in West Seneca.
“We have just learned that we won our fight to keep the doors of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center open,” PEF President Wayne Spence told members in a message sent through PEF On the Move April 3. It is also posted on the PEF website and official social media pages.
“Today’s announcement that the Cuomo administration has decided to reverse a decision to close the exemplary facility ends a five-year battle that saw union members, community members, local activists and government leaders come together to oppose the ill-conceived plan to merge the facility with the adult-patient Buffalo Psychiatric Center,” Spence said.
A major renovation has been underway at BPC in anticipation of receiving the children in 2019. Those renovations are being completed this year, and the state is expected to announce a new plan soon for using that space.
Last year, the state Legislature passed a bill aimed at blocking the closure of the children’s psychiatric center, but the governor vetoed it. Now, he has reversed that position.
“Our thanks go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for hearing our pleas and coming to understand that the Western New York Children’s Psych Center is a place of hope for hopeless children and the services these children receive at the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center are unparalleled,” Spence said.
“It is super exciting news. There are no words to describe it. Every time I think about it, I just start crying,” said PEF Executive Board member Stephanie McLean-Beathley, who is council leader of Division 167 that includes members at WNYCPC and WNY Developmental Disabilities Services/Regional Office. She has been at the center of efforts to save the children’s facility.
“Right from the start, our efforts have been all about the children and we have stayed true to our mission,” McLean-Beathley said. “I’m extremely grateful to everyone including former patients and the parents of patients who supported us on this. We had the support of other unions and community leaders and our legislators. We all worked together.”
Both Spence and McLean-Beathley thanked state Senators Patrick Gallivan and Robert Ortt, along with former Assemblyman Michael Kearns and the entire Western New York delegation “for their unwavering support for our cause and their willingness to sponsor legislation to keep the Children’s Psych Center open.”
Spence expressed the union’s gratitude to “members of the PEF Executive Board for allocating fightback money for a campaign to support our brothers and sisters in Western New York in this fight.” He thanked Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Hintz and former Region 1 Coordinator Rocco Brindisi for their support and gave a “very special thank you to Stephanie, Dave Chudy, Patricia Moran and Scott Dobe of the Save Our WNYCPC Coalition, who fought tooth and nail so these children may remain at WNYCPC where they feel safe and can have hope for a new beginning.”
The effort that finally tipped the scales in favor of keeping the children’s facility open, Spence said, came down to the unwavering efforts by PEF members and the coalitions they built with parents of the patients and other members of the West Seneca community.
“None of this could have happened,” Spence said, “without all of you who wrote letters, made phone calls, attended public hearings and protests, and never gave up on what we knew was right – that a key, critical component to the healing of these children was the therapeutic environment of the WNYCPC, itself, and to move them to an adult facility would severely impact their recovery.
“Time and again we are proving that ‘We Are Stronger Together.’ Never has this been more true than today.”