West Seneca, NY – Dozens of community activists joined members from the New York State Public Employees Federation (PEF) under a grey sky to protest the closing of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center.
Demonstrators gathered on the grounds of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 425, across from Southgate Plaza, where speakers vigorously opposed the state Office of Mental Health’s plan to close the facility and transfer the children to the all-adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
Waving signs that said, “We will care for and protect one another,” PEF leaders cautioned that placing children who have been abused, neglected and even raped and prostituted with adults, will only cause more trauma in their lives.
Stephanie McLean-Beathley, the PEF Division 167 council leader, said, “In West Seneca, we give these children hope and a new beginning. These children, and some who are only 4-years old, would not be safe living adjacent to adults with mental health problems, including registered sex offenders.”
PEF President Wayne Spence noted that the WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center is located on valuable land.
“With all the overwhelming negative aspects of moving children from a highly-respected facility that has earned a reputation for successful outcomes, the only plausible reason OMH is pushing forward with this merger must be a potential land deal,” Spence said. “It is time to check the public records to see if anyone has requested a survey of the property. That would be a tell-tale sign.”
David Chudy, a former PEF political activist and chair of the “Save Our WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center” group also spoke passionately.
“What arrogance, government telling people what is best for them. I do not know why you would want to close one of the best centers in the country. The staff who work at Buffalo PC have said, off the record, that children do not belong there.”
Speakers and supporters, including NY State Assemblymen Michael Kearns and Angelo Morinello, and state Senators Jeffrey Klein and Patrick Gallivan, echoed those comments.
Gallivan told the crowd, “I have had the pleasure of working with families, mental health experts and others who are associated with the Children’s Psychiatric Center for several years and it is clear that they speak with one voice on the importance of keeping this facility in West Seneca. These children deserve and require special treatment in an environment that allows them and their families to feel safe. Moving them to the adult facility in Buffalo will jeopardize their mental health and well-being and that’s why I urge the governor and the Office of Mental Health to stop this plan and keep the West Seneca CPC where it is.”
“It’s unconscionable to uproot young children, some who have been abused and neglected, from the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center to the all-adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center where there are known Level 3 sex offenders residing. As a legislator who supported the creation of Megan’s Law, which created a registry for dangerous sexual predators and prohibits them from residing within 1,000 feet of our children this is a disastrous move for these youngsters who are trying to get the help they need.” Klein said in a statement.
McLean-Beathley and others urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reconsider the OMH merger plan, “for the sake of the children,” as no jobs would be lost.
McLean-Beathley added, “We will fight tooth and nail all the way to prevent this from happening.”
PEF is the state’s largest white-collar labor union representing 54,000 members working in professional, scientific and technical titles, including 308 members who work at the WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center.