As the State Legislature approaches the April 1 budget deadline, the Cuomo Administration remains in favor of a plan that has strong bipartisan opposition from local lawmakers. On Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul offered assurance that young patients would be safe if moved to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
Governor Cuomo first introduced the idea of closing the Children's Psychiatric Center in 2014. Under his administration's plan, the Office of Mental Health would transfer the patients from the West Seneca facility to Buffalo.
Critics include numerous local members of the Assembly and Senate, from both parties. Hochul, during a stop in Buffalo, stated that the plan to move the young patients includes measures to ensure their safety.
"I understand that the facilities that they're preparing at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center are going to accommodate all the concerns that have been raised," Hochul said.
Those concerns include putting young patients on the same campus as adults. Supporters of keeping the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center open say that facility houses patients as young as four years old, and does so in an environment that is more helpful to their therapy and treatment. Supporters add that the hospital is also among the top ten in the nation for lowest readmission.
Last week, Assemblyman Michael Kearns and Senator Patrick Gallivan introduced legislation in their respective houses that would force the OMH to continue operating a separate children's facility.
"We need to keep this open," Kearns said to WBFO in a telephone interview last week. "We should not be putting adults and children together."
Hochul offered assurances that the younger patients will be safe.
Meanwhile, the Lieutenant Governor also expressed her support for bringing ride-hailing into Upstate New York. Local lawmakers and business leaders have also expressed their support for the ability for companies like Uber and Lyft to do business in Buffalo. Hochul is urging citizens to increase the pressure on their representatives.
"It's the new economy. It's an opportunity for people to get to other locations but also job creation," Hochul said. "I don't have a crystal ball. I can't say with any certainty it's going to happen. But I really hope that legislators will do the right thing, follow the governor, and let Upstate New York be part of the 21st Century economy. We're way behind."
Hochul added that her children, who now live in Washington D.C., have expressed frustration over the lack of ride-hailing services while visiting Western New York. She relayed their thoughts that a city still without them is "third world" in their view.