Hauppauge, New York - October 9, 2013 - Suffolk County was one of 4 municipalities in New York State who implemented a pilot program named in honor of PFC Joseph Dwyer, a Suffolk County resident who joined the Army after 9/11 and was deployed to Iraq. PFC Dwyer suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and lost his battle with PTSD. Today, the Suffolk County legislature approved the allocation of additional funding from the New York State Office of Mental Helath in the amount $185,000 to continue the pilot PTSD program. Funding for the program was secured by Senator Lee Zeldin.
“The Peer to Peer program is needed in Suffolk County as we have seen a rise of military suicides in our country,” said County Executive Bellone. “Those who are serving or who have served our country need our support and resources and the Peer to Peer program is designed to address the needs of the military community suffering from PTSD.”
The program has now been expanded to 11 counties within New York State due to the need and success of the pilot programs. Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency is presently hosting 14 weekly group meetings with that number increasing to 24 by the end of November. The Suffolk County program has had over 500 veteran contacts through the program meetings since the inception of the program. The meetings operate with an acceptance of anonymity to ensure full participation by the military community. The program has received full support from Suffolk County Veterans Service groups and the Northport VA Medical Center who also refers veterans to the program.
“The PFC Joseph Dwyer Peer-to-Peer program has been very successful at reaching our veterans and providing needed support in a non-threatening and confidential setting,” County Legislator Stern said. “This program enables our veterans to share their military experiences, ease their concerns regarding life issues and transitioning from military to civilian life and receive support from others who understand and are experiencing the same challenges. This additional funding will enable Suffolk County to reach more of our veterans who may be suffering in silence and let them know that they are not alone.”
The Peer to Peer program is designed to serve veterans, active duty, reserve and National Guard troops suffering from PTSD and allows veterans the opportunity to share and discuss their issues and problems with trained veteran personnel. A unique feature of the program is that veterans serve as the facilitators of the groups which provides a comfort and familiarity level to those veterans seeking assistance. Facilitators are required to successfully participate in regular monthly training in areas such as PTSD awareness, TBI (traumatic brain injury) awareness, MST (military sexual trauma), alcohol and substance abuse (self-medicating) combat stress, physical disability and mental health related diagnostic issues and other areas of military stress and trauma.
Suffolk County was chosen as a pilot county because of its large and diverse veteran population coupled with its reputation for delivering quality services to veterans.