EDITORIAL: Help for suffering children
Buffalo News - 8/5/2018
Aug. 05--A recent state announcement holds out the possibility two useful developments in Western New York: one undeniable; the other to be determined. But there are reasons for optimism.
Offering much needed care to a suffering and underserved population, New York plans to create a center in Buffalo to provide treatment for children with the double diagnosis of developmental and mental health disabilities. The center would serve clients between aged 12-17 -- years that can be challenging enough for children without disabilities. It's hard to image what they are like for those the new center is meant to help.
Less certain, but important to evaluate, is how appropriate the proposed setting is: in the Strozzi Building at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center where, in a separate area, adult patients are treated. That was the place the state had once proposed to move Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center from its bucolic and more remote location in West Seneca.
Parents of patients and others fought for years to block the move. The opponents included two state legislators of different parties: Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, and then-Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo. Among their biggest concerns was placing children and adults in the same facility, even with the state's pledge that they would occupy ares of the building that were separated and secure.
In the end -- and, perhaps not surprisingly, in an election year -- the opponents prevailed. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced earlier this year that the children's center would remain at its West Seneca location. Now, though, the plan is to put children who may be even more stressed into the same city facility.
Gallivan, appropriately, wants to investigate the plan to be sure the location is appropriate. There are reason to think it might be workable.
The facility was nearly complete when Cuomo pulled the plug and, as state health officials described it, the planning for safety and security was comprehensive. So a potential location exists.
Additionally, while the heartfelt objections of those wanting to remain at the West Seneca facility were largely centered on keeping children separate from adults, they were also surely based, at least in part, on liking what they already had: a residential center in a park-like setting on 72 serene acres.
But these unfortunate children, with dual diagnoses, have no existing center anywhere in New York designed to treat their complicated and overlapping challenges. A ready-made location -- assuming its conditions to be as described -- would be hard to turn down.
This is an idea well worth exploring, critically, but understanding the need the create a place these children can find the help they need. Turning it down should not be done easily.
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