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County Executive Bellone Presents Fourth Annual Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans And Family Day Of Wellness

Written by Long Island News & PR  |  12. June 2017

Suffolk County, NY - June 12, 2017 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone hosted the fourth annual Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans’ and Family Day of Wellness, which provides a setting for local veterans and their family members dealing with post-service transition issues to participate in wellness related activities. 
 
The free event also serves as a chance to provide critical information and awareness about the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer to Peer Program, which is overseen by the Suffolk County Veteran’s Service Agency and is designed to serve veterans, active duty, reserve and National Guard troops suffering from PTSD and other adjustment conditions.
 
The program is named for Private First Class Joseph Dwyer, who was a U.S. Army Combat Medic and Mount Sinai resident that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  PFC Dwyer received national attention after a photograph surfaced that showed him carrying a wounded Iraqi boy, while his unit was fighting its way to Baghdad. After returning home and struggling with PTSD, PFC Dwyer succumbed to his condition in 2008.
 
“We have no greater obligation than making sure the men and women of our armed forces have the support they need upon returning home and back into civilian life,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “The Joseph P. Dwyer Program has a proven track record of assisting veterans through direct, one-on-one engagement in a comfortable setting so that they can receive the support necessary to make a successful transition.”
 
Congressman Lee Zeldin said, “Delivering the highest quality of care for our veterans must be a highest priority. The PFC Joseph Dwyer Program is an exceptional model for our veterans with the mental wounds of war and should be replicated nationally. I commend Suffolk County for its incredible effort developing this peer support model and I am honored to have been part of this important effort.”
 
New York State Senator Tom Croci said: "The circumstances that many of our men and women in the military endure are sometimes beyond comprehension.  Having a program like this to offer the mental and emotional support is a terrific step in reacclimatizing them back into society and their homes.  I applaud Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Camp Pa-qua-tuck for their commitment and dedication to our service men and women in implementing this first rate program."
 
Since its inception in 2012, over 10,000 veterans have participated in the Joseph P. Dwyer Program countywide – sharing their experiences with fellow veterans and allowing the healing process to begin. As part of the outreach effort, the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency issued an informational pamphlet on the Joseph P. Dwyer Program to veteran households throughout the County.  Those outreach efforts continue as the Program builds awareness and participation.
 
Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency Director, Thomas Ronayne said: “A certainty among veterans is that a bond exists with our fellow veterans. Men and women we have never met are our brothers, sisters and family. Families take care of each other and that is precisely what we try to do through the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency and the Joseph Dwyer Program. Veterans working with other veterans to serve and protect one another in the ways that we are uniquely equipped to do. Suffolk’s long tradition of honoring, respecting and serving our veterans was made stronger today through the annual Day of Wellness.”
 
This innovative program provides safe, confidential, supportive, and educational opportunities for veterans who have faced challenges in their post-service transition to meet with other veterans in support of their regaining their personal resilience and direction. The Program seeks to leverage Vet-to-Vet relationships to enhance positive change through planned learning, and personal growth experiences including group and/or individual peer engagement. The unique nature of the Joseph P. Dwyer Program is that veterans are serving as the facilitators, which helps provide a comfortable and familiar setting for veterans seeking assistance.
 
As a result of the Program's successes locally, the Suffolk County model has now been replicated and administered in 16 counties across New York State. The program offers a confidential, one-on-one peer approach that has captured national attention, and is being considered as a model to expand across the country. 
 
In Congress, Rep. Zeldin recently re-introduced his bill, H.R. 897, to expand nationally the PFC Joseph Dwyer Program. This bipartisan legislation has received support from the entire Long Island Congressional delegation. 
 
For the period of January 2016 through December 2016, there were 323 Dwyer peer group meetings held with a total attendance of 1,211 – averaging four veterans per meeting. The total unduplicated number of veterans that served in peer group meetings last year was 334.
 
On average, there were six weekly meeting sites available for these groups each month, including Amityville, Huntington, Bay Shore, Patchogue, Yaphank, Riverhead, and Sag Harbor.  As a result of additional state funding provided and willing community partners, Suffolk County was able to establish several additional bi-weekly and monthly group opportunities.
 
For more information on the Joseph P. Dwyer Program, residents can contact the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services at www.suffolkcountyny.gov or by phone at (631) 853-8500.

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