NEW YORK—Close to a hundred staff and supporters protested the proposal of closing the Brooklyn Developmental Center and three other major mental health facilities in New York.
The Brooklyn Developmental Center (BDC) is a mental health facility in the Spring Creek, East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. President of the BDC Local, Faye Wilkie-Fields, said that the facility is essential to taking care of the most mentally disadvantaged people in the city.
“We have sex offenders, dual-diagnosis, we have schizophrenic, we got psychotic,” Wilkie-Fields said.
According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement this summer, BDC is scheduled for closing on Dec. 31, 2015. If the facility shuts down, 581 of its staff will get displaced. Wilkies-Fields is not sure where all the employees will be placed.
“He’s claiming no layoffs, but where are we going?” Wilkie-Fields said.
Since the time Cuomo announced the closures, there hasn’t been any mention of where the workers will be placed.
As the protesters walked around the 6-foot-tall wall that surrounded the facility, they said they will fight until the end to keep BDC open.
Wilkie-Fields worked in secure-care treatment at the BDC for over 24 years. She said that if the people she works with are integrated into neighborhoods, the people won’t understand their behavior. BDC patients may also be prone to fall back into their bad habits.
The BDC houses 235 patients who need intensive care and round-the-clock supervision. Another 197 patients receive assistance services in group houses.
Edward Holder is a supervisor at 1 of the 22 houses affiliated with the BDC. These houses run programs that help smaller groups of people in their day-to-day life needs.
“It hurts me and it hurts the individuals,” Holder said.
Tony Cosentino, who came out to support the protest, has had his 50-year-old son, John, at the facility since 1978. Cosentino said private schools rejected John because of his autism and self-injurious behavior.
“He’s done remarkably well here at BDC. Why can’t he live out his life here?” Cosentino said.
Cosentino said nonprofits are not equipped with the on-call doctors and nurses that could handle autistic people like his son, who he said looks like a Ben Affleck double.
“Because of his needs and medications, I can’t keep him at home,” Cosentino said.
Gov. Cuomo’s efforts are aimed at closing developmental institutions “to achieve full community integration.” According to a press release, staff would be reassigned to work in other state-operated programs.