BUFFALO, N.Y. -- There have been rallies, trips to Albany, and community surveys—all in an effort to save the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center. The latest stage of the budget process brought some disappointment to Assemblyman Mickey Kearns.
"When I was reading the budget bills last night and I couldn't find that language in there, it was very concerning for me," said Assemblyman Kearns.
Kearns is a vocal opponent of the plan to merge the children's facility with the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. Now, he says suing to prevent the move is a possibility.
"We believe that they've violated mental health law, and we're looking to pursue that," said Kearns. "We will do whatever we have to do to save those children."
Safety is a main concern of those against the merger. The State Office of Mental Health has said children would be treated in a separate, secure area, apart from adult patients. But Kearns isn't convinced.
On Wednesday, he called on Gov. Cuomo to investigate an incident that happened last month. Kearns says that according to police reports, a patient attacked three staff members, causing injuries, including to the rotator cuff of one, cracking the ribs of another and biting the third.
"This perpetrator is still locked up today. That must mean they're very, very dangerous, and these are the same people we want to put our most vulnerable, our four-year-olds," he said.
The assemblyman says language to save the center could be included in an upcoming budget bill.
The state Office of Mental Health offered this comment on Wednesday:
Relocating children’s inpatient services from West Seneca to Buffalo will allow OMH to dramatically improve and expand services for the children and families of Western New York. OMH has already pre-invested approximately $1.7 million in anticipated savings into community-based child and family services in Western NY. This has allowed OMH to provide services to more than 500 additional children and families. Once relocation is completed, OMH will reinvest a total of $3.2 million in estimated annual savings, enabling us to provide services to more than 1,000 additional children and families in Western New York. Those services would be lost without the savings to be generated by the relocation.