Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, vetoed a bill Thursday that would prohibit the collocating or merging of the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center with the adult facility in Buffalo or any other facility. Now the bill’s Assembly sponsor is calling for a special session so the legislature can override the decision.

Both houses unanimously passed the bill earlier this year. Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D-Buffalo, helped collect more than 16,000 signatures of people in favor of keeping the facility at its current location in West Seneca.

Kearns also argued the state’s plans amount to closing the center, which is illegal without the approval of both houses of the legislature. That argument is still playing out in court.

“Keeping children separate from adults in the mental health system would be consistent with the scientific research which keeps children and adolescents separate from adults in the criminal justice and corrections system,” Kearns wrote in his letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

In his veto note, the governor said none of the arguments of the opponents of the plan have merit. He said the adult and children facilities will be completely separate, not co-mingled, and there will be a “myriad of barriers” to prevent interaction or even sight lines.

Cuomo also said arguments children would be moved from the West Seneca facility or that mental health services would be reduced are inconsistent with the plan. The governor agreed the psych center has provided high quality health services for many years.

“However, the WNYCPC is in need of substantial repair. As such, the state sought and received public input, and has diligently worked with stakeholders over the past four years, to develop and implement a relocation plan that enhances community-based services, preserves inpatient capacity, and, most importantly, benefits the children and families of Western New York,” he said.

Cuomo pointed out the state has already invested $5.1 million  in the new facility and said the design will allow the Office of Mental health to spend health care funding more efficiently and effectively. As a result, he said the state can provide services to more than 1,000 additional children.

“I cannot support a bill that would have such a negative impact on children and families in need of mental health services and directly compromises four years of work that will demonstrably provide better and more accessible care for children,” Cuomo said.

Kearns said the governor’s arguments do not hold water. The Assemblyman has continually pointed out the West Seneca facility is already one of the most highly-rated in the state.

“This veto did not afford us a reason and savings of three million dollars is not justifiable when the WNY Children’s Psychiatric Center has: the lowest 30 and 90 day readmission rates; scored 99.9% by the Joint Commission and is ranked top 10% of any psychiatric facility in the United States,” he said.

Two-thirds of the members of both the Assembly and the Senate would have to vote for in favor of overriding the veto, even if a special session takes place.