Judge buoys sup­port­ers of child psy­chi­atric cen­ter

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Bar­bara O’Brien

A State Supreme Court jus­tice has tem­po­rar­ily or­dered Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo not to veto a bill that would keep the West­ern New York Chil­dren’s Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter in West Seneca.

Judge Catherine Nugent-Panepinto also or­dered the state to tem­po­rar­ily stop con­struc­tion and re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties on the planned move of the Chil­dren’s Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter to the grounds of the Buf­falo Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter.

The tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der was good news to the Coali­tion to Save the Chil­dren’s Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter, a group of pa­tients, for­mer pa­tients, fam­ily mem­bers, com­mu­nity ac­tivists and health care providers who filed a le­gal chal­lenge to the gov­er­nor and state men­tal health com­mis­sioner. Mem­bers of the group be­lieve that the West Seneca lo­ca­tion is highly ef­fec­tive and pro­vides a sooth­ing, ther­a­peu­tic at­mos­phere for pa­tients, and that ju­ve­niles should not be in the same fa­cil­ity as adults.

Cuomo ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials con­tend that clos­ing the West Seneca cen­ter and mov­ing the ju­ve­nile pa­tients to Buf­falo would put them closer to a range of com­mu­nity-based health care ser­vices. They said chil­dren would be kept away from adults there, with sep­a­rate treat­ment ar­eas, en­trances and re­cre­ation ar­eas. A gov­er­nor’s spokesman did not re­spond to a re­quest for a com­ment on the tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der.

Nugent-Panepinto sched­uled a hear­ing on the mat­ter for 10 a.m. July 27.

Assem­bly­man Michael P. Kearns, D-Buf­falo, and Sen. Pa­trick M. Gal­li­van, R-Elma, spon­sored bills to keep the cen­ter in West Seneca that were unan­i­mously passed in both houses of the State Leg­is­la­ture.

But the bill has not yet made it onto Cuomo’s desk. When it does, he would have 10 days to veto, sign or do noth­ing with the bill, in which case it would be­come law. “We ap­plaud Jus­tice Panepinto for hav­ing the courage to stand up for the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in our so­ci­ety,” said Steven M. Co­hen, at­tor­ney for the coali­tion.

Co­hen ar­gued that the gov­er­nor is re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing state laws, in­clud­ing the men­tal hy­giene law, to pro­vide the nec­es­sary qual­ity of care to child men­tal health pa­tients. The gov­er­nor first pro­posed the move four years ago, and prepa­ra­tions have al­ready started at the Buf­falo Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

“I’m hope­ful Gov. Cuomo will take this ac­tion as yet an­other in­di­ca­tion to sign the WNY Chil­dren’s Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter bill, which passed unan­i­mously in the Assem­bly and Se­nate and needs to be signed into law im­me­di­ately,” Kearns said.

Can­teen area of West­ern New York Chil­dren’s Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter in West Seneca is dec­o­rated with art­works by chil­dren and their fam­i­lies. The dis­pute over the state’s at­tempt to move the cen­ter to the grounds of Buf­falo Psy­chi­atric Cen­ter has its next State Supreme Court hear­ing sched­uled for July 27.

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