On Anniversary of ADA, OPWDD CELEBRATES closure of developmental center West Seneca Campus Served People with Developmental Disabilities for Nearly 50 Years
(West Seneca, NY) Keeping the promise to individuals with developmental disabilities, Courtney Burke, Commissioner of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), celebrated today the official closure of the agency’s West Seneca Developmental Center (DC) after nearly 50 years of supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families in Western New York. Today’s closure celebration coincided with the 21st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The West Seneca DC closure is part of a multi-year plan by OPWDD to close all of its institutional developmental centers by the end of 2014 and move people into more integrated community-based settings.
At its peak, in the 1970s, the West Seneca DC housed more than 1,700 people. The 439-acre West Seneca DC campus, which is part of the Western New York Developmental Disabilities Services Office (DDSO), will continue to provide administrative office space for the agency.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “We have an obligation to provide the very best services for individuals with disabilities and reform our system, and that includes more community-based care. Today’s closure celebration marks our ongoing reforms to make our care delivery better, stronger, and more efficient.”
Commissioner Burke said, “This is a time of transformation in the support services OPWDD provides to the 126,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities. We are developing a system of care that provides individuals and families with greater residential and programmatic choice, and moves individuals out of institutions and into communities where they can receive the services that make the most sense for each of them.”
‘A Promise Fulfilled’
The State started transitioning people with developmental disabilities in the late 1970s, when OPWDD began closing its large institutions in favor of creating residences and moving people into the community. Since Willowbrook, 11 developmental centers have closed.
On September 17, 1987, the Willowbrook DC was declared “officially and forever closed.” This was championed as a “promise fulfilled.” Willowbrook became a symbol that raised the consciousness of all for support of deinstitutionalized care and community-based services for people with developmental disabilities.
History of West Seneca DC
The West Seneca State School opened in 1962. By 1971, there were 1,705 people living at the school. In 2008, when closure of the West Seneca DC became a priority for the agency, the DC had 80 people to transition into community settings.
The Western New York DDSO began working on its multi-year closure plan in 2008. The individuals who lived at the center and their families were all involved in the planning for moving into the community.
OPWDD transferred the land on which the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Center is located to the New York State Office for Mental Health (OMH). The agency will be retaining a section of the property off Leydecker Road, where the Western New York DDSO operates several community residences, as well as several long-standing residences along East and West Roads. The sale of the main part of the campus is being handled by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the coordinating entity for the New York State Interagency Council on Mental Hygiene Property Utilization.
The Western New York DDSO supports 11,333 people with developmental disabilities and their families in a seven-county area, encompassing Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, and Orleans counties.