BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It's a service no family expects to need, but for decades, the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center has provided treatment to young people. Now, it looks like the state's latest spending plan is a step toward closing the facility.
"Can you guarantee the safety of the kids?" That's a question Assemblyman Mickey Kearns said he'd like to ask of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state office of mental health.
"They can't even guarantee the safety of their own workers," he added about the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
New York's latest budget brought Assemblyman Kearns and others face-to-face with a reality they long fought to prevent: a spending plan that includes no funding for the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center.
"Devastation. We have worked really hard over the last four years to restore funding," said Stephanie McLean-Beathley, a former social worker who worked at WNYCPC for nearly ten years. She's also a member of the "Save Our WNYCPC" coalition.
The state office of mental health wants to move CPC patients to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Kearns says funding was included in Assembly and Senate budget bills, but not in the final plan. A one-year extension was offered, but Kearns says a more permanent solution is needed, as well as answers to questions about the future of the children's site.
"I've been trying for four years to get a meeting to talk about the reuse of that property in West Seneca, and we've gotten zero response," Kearns said. "The State of New York is the biggest slumlord in Western New York."
The office of mental health said in a statement that children would be treated in a secure facility, separate from adults, and that this relocation would allow them to help an additional 500 young people and their families.
That would be possible through $1.7 million OMH said it's pre-invested in community-based child and family services from funds it expects to save when CPC closes.
CPC supporters said they'd be willing to advocate for the Buffalo facility to take the 46 beds that would've been reserved for young people and instead use them to fight a local epidemic.
"Add some beds for opiate addiction, treat those people here," McLean-Beathley said. "Make it a well-rounded adult facility and then leave the children at the children's psychiatric center."
And Kearns said last week he's considering legal action.
"To me, with the governor, this is going to get personal because he's the one that can stop this, and he's not doing anything about it," said Kearns.
While the center's future is uncertain, advocates say they're sure of one thing: for them, it's not over yet.