The Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center opened in West Seneca in 1970. The center takes seriously emotionally disturbed children between the ages of four to 18 years old from 19 Western New York counties.
Children who are admitted to the facility have lives scarred by trauma such as sexual molestation, physical abuse, bullying, death of parents, abandonment, neglect and intense family conflicts. Despite the significant volume from these 19 counties the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center has the lowest reinstatement or re-institutionalization rate of any facility in New York State.
The image that keeps returning to me with regard to the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center is “children’s hand prints and quotes upon the walls,” that you see when visiting the campus.
Children who leave the facility put handprints on a wall with encouraging quotes to others still receiving treatment. In the words of Sarah, a patient who was admitted to the facility for suffering severe depression, the handprints were a reminder that she “could do this,” she could get better because so many other children in similar circumstances received healing from this safe place.
For another former resident, Erin, the “handprints” were symbols of hope, at a facility whose staff were like family who taught essential coping skills for mental illness, physical or sexual abuse. So many of us look to the accomplishments of athletes and their Halls of Fame in Canton, Ohio or Cooperstown for inspiration, but in a greater sense these children have built their own Hall of Fame, highlighting their achievements in overcoming greater challenges within themselves. It is a campus no less worthy than the places we build to athletes and the hands figuratively touch us and can truly inspire.
Governor Cuomo is proposing that the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center be moved to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Moving these children into an adult setting would not be therapeutically beneficial and may in fact be detrimental to the psyches of many of these children.
The likelihood of re-institutionalization and thus increased costs to New York would increase by moving this facility to an adult psychiatric center as the studies show.
Governor Cuomo should allow the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center to continue to do the great work that they have been able to achieve at this facility for the last forty three years and into the future with the continued benefits for the children of Western New York.
Governor Cuomo, I ask that you not shutter this campus, children and adolescents should be treated differently than adults in all areas of mental health.
MICHAEL P. KEARNS
NYS ASSEMBLY 142nd District
1074 Union Road
West Seneca, New York 14224