January 21, 2017
By WNYLaborToday.com Editor-Publisher Tom Campbell
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West Seneca, NY – With a self-described deep background of having worked in the State Corrections System and a keen knowledge of what it means to house children in the same facility with adult sex offenders, Public Employees Federation (PEF) President Wayne Spence traveled to West Seneca Thursday (January 19th) to join with a number of Union Representatives and Elected Officials to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to personally visit the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center (WNYCPC) in order “to see the good’ that’s being done there – and the big mistake that will be made if New York State moves forward on its plan to merge the children’s facility into the Adult Buffalo Psychiatric Center.
For the past three consecutive years, a coalition of Labor Unions (including the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and PEF), community groups and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have come together to successfully stave off the New York State Office of Mental Health’s (NYSOMH) plan to close the tranquil and wooded WNYCPC that serves children as young as four years old and merge it into the Adult urban Buffalo Psychiatric Center, which also houses adult sex offenders on its grounds.
“We are ‘appealing’ to New York State – ‘this is not right,’” Spence (pictured below) told WNYLaborToday.com after the news conference, noting the WNYCPC serves 19 Western New York Counties. “I am ‘shocked and dismayed’ that (the governor) ‘does not get it.’ He ‘needs’ to come here, ‘to see for himself’ – ‘then he’d get it.’ This ‘is not just about our Members’ and their jobs.’ What ‘this is about is giving a voice to those who do not have one’ and ‘I think he will appreciate the value (of the WNYCPC) and keep it open.’ I’m ‘hoping the governor will fix this’ in his budget.”
Closing a suburban children’s facility and merging it into an urban adult facility that also houses sex offenders was a point not lost on Spence, who spent 24 years working as a State Parole Officer: “Some of these children have been ‘victims’ of sexual attacks. ‘Taking them’ from such a facility and ‘placing them’ in a facility with ‘predators’ – it’s ‘not a good place to be.’”