WEST SENECA, N.Y. -- Stacks and stacks of surveys on Assemblyman Mickey Kearns' desk represent opinions of nearly 2,000 West Seneca residents. Kearns says 96 percent of them want the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center to remain open, and 97 percent want a public meeting about the future of the property.
"People are upset in West Seneca and in the community. They're not getting answers and they need to be listened to," said Kearns, D-Buffalo.
The state Office of Mental Health is planning to move the patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center campus, where adults are treated. Those against the plan say there's no clinical reason to do this, and moving the children out of their own facility, in a park-like environment, will negatively impact their treatment.
Kearns is now considering using litigation to stop the move. He believes the OMH commissioner hasn't followed regulations in the mental health law.
"According to that, when a facility is going to be shut down, they have a responsibility to meet with the community. Obviously, if there's nearly 2,000 people that want to talk to the commissioner, we're not getting the proper response," said Kearns.
The OMH Commissioner says she doesn't believe the quality of care will be diminished, and with the savings from the move, they can serve an additional 1,000 children.
However, Kearns and state Sen. Robert Ortt say they still have many unanswered questions after discussing the plans with her during a recent budget hearing.
"She gave a lot of answers without really getting into specifics or details as to where those answers, what they were based on," said Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.
"She made statements that to me, were not factual, that were not true and that need to be explained," said Kearns.
That's led to Kearns sending the commissioner a letter asking for details and a public meeting, and Ortt says they'll work to fight the move in the state budget.
"To make sure that no funding, no monies are appropriated for any construction at BPC, especially until the governor or the commissioner comes here," said Ortt.
The spokesperson for OMH released this statement:
"OMH has been, and will continue to engage the community, stakeholders, and the Legislature on the relocation of WNYCPC inpatient capacity from West Seneca to Buffalo to ensure that viewpoints are carefully considered. Unfortunately, some are advancing misinformation about this process, leading to conclusions that are uninformed and simply unsupported by the facts. Given the sensitive nature of the children and families that require these important services, any allegation that OMH has not been completely transparent in this process, that the impact on the community has not been considered, or that children will be housed in unsafe conditions is reckless and patently false."