Allison Scanlon’s son needed saving.
When Vernon – who suffers from bipolar disorder, Pervasive Development Disorder and mild retardation – arrived at the West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center as a 9-year-old, he had been mercilessly bullied.
As a result, he was “violent, out of control,” Scanlon recalls.
“CPC taught him how to physically cope with things that were happening to him, and they also treated our family,” Scanlon said.
Now, Vernon is 21 years old, is married to a woman, DeAnna, whom he met at CPC, and has a daughter.
Scanlon was one of several hundred people who attended a fundraiser Sunday afternoon aimed at keeping CPC in its West Seneca location. Rain poured on VFW Post 8113, but it didn’t diminish the spirits of those passionate about their cause.
David Chudy, co-chairman of the coalition to keep CPC in its current location, said the organizers didn’t have a set financial goal for the event but were hoping for several thousand dollars. The money will go toward a media campaign, including billboards and newspaper advertisements, aimed at spreading the message.
More than 200 baskets were raffled off, all containing gifts donated by local businesses. Chudy said his group was overwhelmed by the amount of donations.
Scanlon sported a pin that said: “Governor Cuomo, do the right thing. Save our WNY Children’s Center.”
In July 2013, New York’s Office of Mental Health introduced an initiative to downsize from 24 psychiatric centers – more than any other state – into 15 regional centers of excellence, as well as three forensics centers and two research centers. The office did not need legislative approval to proceed.
As part of that plan, the CPC will be moved from its one-story West Seneca building into what is currently the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, which now serves only adults. The location will become the Western Lakes Child and Adult Regional Center of Excellence in Buffalo.
Proponents of the CPC have resisted the change, as have local lawmakers, arguing that among other things, the move will create safety issues, reduce the number of beds available to children – from 46 to 36 – and is counterintuitive with mental illness on the rise.
Children were once housed in the Buffalo center, but in 1970, state leaders opened a separate facility for adolescents ages 4-18.
“What has changed?” Scanlon said. “There have been no studies where they could substantiate what the need was to close CPC and move them out.”
Many have said this is a cost-cutting move; New York spends about $20 million a year running the CPC.
The Center’s supporters, however, say its quality and necessity in the lives of youngsters outweigh any cost. CPC has the lowest readmission rate among New York psychiatric centers.
State legislators, most notably Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, have been ardent in their support of keeping the CPC where it is, and they made their position known in a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
In December 2013, Cuomo relented to urges to keep psychiatric centers open in Binghamton, Elmira and St. Lawrence County, but he has not backed off on his plan to consolidate in Buffalo.
“It makes you wonder, is this another example of Western New York getting the short end of the stick?” said Chudy, a retired social worker. “Cuomo has been investing lots of money in this Buffalo Billion stuff. We’re guessing maybe this has been under his radar.
“He came up with this plan and other people maybe yelled louder, sooner, so he backed off. We can’t believe we’d be the only one he’d try to do this to.”
The consolidation, if it continues as planned, is expected to take up to three years.