WEST SENECA, N.Y. -- As passionate advocates of the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center fight to keep its vulnerable young patients in the peaceful environment of their West Seneca facility, hundreds of town residents are sending their support to the cause by responding to surveys asking if they think the center should stay open.
"We have had an unbelievable response within a short period of time. I've never had more people respond to a survey than on this issue," said Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D-Buffalo.
Kearns' office had received more than 800 completed surveys as of Wednesday morning, and 107 more came before noon.
It's no surprise to former employees of the center that "yes" is checked on almost every single one.
"It's an absolute abomination that anybody who really cares about kids and kids that have severe mental health issues would even think about this," said Dave Chudy, a former employee, "We've heard, 'oh, people don't care, it's just a handful of folks making a lot of noise.' No, it's not a handful of folks. It's hundreds, really, thousands of people. It's the entire Western New York delegation, it's church groups, it's community groups, it's neighbors, it's average folks, it's all the families, it's everybody here, is against this. And we're going to keep shouting louder and louder until the governor hears this."
They're hoping the governor will stop the State Office of Mental Health's plans to move the children to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center campus, where adults are treated.
Kearns says he spoke with Governor Cuomo about it last week.
"He seemed very attentive to the idea and the suggestion, he asked questions. He didn't say no. He said he would take it under consideration, and to me, that was a really positive sign," said Kearns.
Advocates are making sure he hears their message loud and clear following a call for action by the Public Employees Federation January 19 in support of the Save Our WNY CPC effort.
"We had 262 letters sent to the governor, 165 Facebook posts were made, 56 tweets were made, and 447 phone calls were made directly to the governor's office, and that is still continuing each and every day," said former employee Stephanie McLean-Beathley.
And the surveys in Kearns' office keep piling up.
"We greatly appreciate the town of West Seneca, they have been so supportive," said Allison Scanlon, a parent of a former patient at the center.
Kearns encourages residents who haven't sent in their surveys to do so. If they need any assistance, they can contact his office at 716-608-6099 or email@example.com.