PEF member Patricia Moran honored by NAMI for service to youth at WNYCPC
BY KATHERINE MOSTACCIO
The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Buffalo & Erie County Inc. presented PEF Member Patricia M. Moran with the 2019 Peter L. Heggs Award at its 35th Annual Awards Dinner May 9 at Samuel’s Grande Manor in Williamsville.
Moran, a Region 1 assistant council leader, is a senior public information specialist at Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC). The facility serves emotionally challenged children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 18 who require behavioral health care services.
“I’ve worked for the New York state Office of Mental Health since 1990, ” Moran said. I began my career working at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center (GPC) as the public information officer. In 1991, GPC was the first state-operated psychiatric center to close. I was then transferred to WNYCPC,” Moran said. “While I loved working with the adults, I have found helping the children and their families to be my calling. Early intervention makes a huge difference. It’s very rewarding seeing the kids grow up and do amazing things in our community,such as being peer specialists helping others in need.”
Moran is not only the public information specialist, she also coordinates the hospital’s volunteer services program, helping to foster future health care professionals; organizes parties with local community groups; solicits donations such as for the holiday gift program that not only benefits the inpatient and Community Services kids but also provides for their siblings and families; and publishes a monthly newsletter, among other tasks.
The newsletter covers both WNYCPC’s inpatient psychiatric hospital and the multiple outpatient programs WNYCPC operates throughout the 19-county catchment area.
Moran and her fellow PEF coworkers have worked with thousands of courageous children and youth who have passed through the doors of the WNYCPC as well as through the multiple WNYCPC Community Services sites.
When asked what makes her job so rewarding, the answer comes quickly: “I have the best coworkers, really we are a family. Together we provide hope and recovery for some really courageous children, youth and their families. Many of our vulnerable children and youth have been severely traumatized, bullied, abandoned or are experiencing the beginning stages of serious mental illness. Several have made serious suicide attempts. Because of the active treatment, excellent care provided in our therapeutic environment, compassion and dedication of our staff, I have witnessed miracles. I truly am proud of our entire WNYCPC family,” she said.
The award Moran received in May is named after Peter L. Heggs, a young man who suffered from serious mental illness after participating in college. He was hospitalized several times but could not find the hope he and his family desperately needed. He completed suicide. His mother, Lynne Shuster, was one of the founders of NAMI of Buffalo & Erie County. She started the group to help other seriously mentally ill individuals and their families.
“I’m thankful to Peter, for his path may have been difficult in his life, but so much good came out of his tragedy,” Moran said. “I’m not a person who seeks out awards, but this one really means a lot. NAMI has helped literally thousands of family members in Western New York.” Including Moran’s. “My mom had a lot of anxiety since she lost her father at 9 years old. NAMI helped me a lot with her,” she said. “I was a family member way before I worked here. I think that gives me empathy for families and the kids. I know what it’s like to be a family member, and not being able to keep your loved ones safe.
“I think this is a big part of why I have remained at WNYCPC for such a long time,” she said. “I love being able to ‘pay it forward’ and help those in need, especially our children, youth and their families.”
NAMI of Buffalo & Erie County is an organization of more than 450 families and friends with loved ones who have serious mental illnesses, according to the group’s website. “NAMI advocates for the people who don’t have a voice,” Moran said. “Mental illness can be so devastating. It’s getting better but there is still so much stigma. There shouldn’t be.”
Moran said early intervention in mental illness is key, which is why places like WNYCPC are so important. “My mom was a fantastic mom. I know she would have lived longer if what we have here had been offered when she was younger,” she said.
WNYCPC was nearly closed a few years ago when the state Office of Mental Health unveiled plans to merge the facility with Buffalo Psychiatric Center — a move that would have housed the vulnerable children alongside adults.
Being part of the movement that helped to save the center was something Moran is proud of and she said it couldn’t have been done without fellow PEF members.
“Our entire PEF organization, we have some wonderful, dedicated employees that go above and beyond, across the state,” Moran said. “They helped us when we were going to be closed. A lot of other people told us, ‘Don’t fight, it’s going to happen.’
“Everybody that came together, we’re just really blessed,” Moran said. “I’m just really thankful for my union brothers and sisters.”
At the end of the day, Moran is most proud of the impact she has made on the children. “Their lives are much better than when they came here,” she said.