Photos from the Event are Available Here
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and New York State Senator John Brooks today kicked off a Statewide campaign to urge the State Legislature to restore funding for theJoseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project. This year’s Executive Budget included no funding for the project, compared to last year when 23 counties across the State of New York received $3.735 million dollars in funding.
The County Executive will be traveling to the Hudson Valley and Western New York over the course of the next few weeks to build a coalition of state and local officials on this issue.
“It is our profound duty to serve our veterans both at home and abroad,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “Often times when our veterans return home they carry scars with them. The Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project has a proven track record of assisting our veterans regain their lives and I urge Albany to reverse course immediately and fund this vital program.”
State Senator John Brooks said: “These are heroes helping heroes. This is a program that enables veterans with knowledge and understanding of issues like PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), depression, and substance abuse to meet with and counsel veterans who are suffering from one, or several, of these afflictions as a result of their service to our country. The urgent need for this program, and others like it, is evident in the needs of those suffering from their experiences and our first goal is to make sure they know that they have not been forgotten.”
State Assemblyman Steve Stern said:“ The elimination of funding for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veterans Peer- to-Peer Program is unconscionable. This critical funding should not only be restored, it should be increased dramatically. Suffolk County is home to more veterans than any other county in New York State. Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. We cannot turn them away and claim to support our troops. As our servicemen and women continue to return home, there will be an increased need for these services. We owe the brave men and women who sacrifice so much for our great nation more than platitudes. We owe them and their families the highest level of care and respect. We must let them know that they are not alone. As a member of the Assembly Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I strongly support the important work of the Dwyer Program, which must be fully funded, extended and made permanent.”
Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland said: “As Chairwoman of the Suffolk County Legislature’s Veterans Committee, I have heard first-hand just how vital the Dwyer Peer- to- Peer Program is and how successful it is in preventing suicide not only for our Suffolk County veterans but veterans throughout New York State. I implore the New York State Legislature to restore the $3.7 million to the budget for the Dwyer Program. We are indebted to our veterans for their service to our Country. The least we can do is make sure they have access to the Dwyer Program, a program which can and does save lives, if and when they need it.”
The Program, which is overseen by the Suffolk County Veterans' Service Agency and Suffolk County United Veterans, is designed to serve veterans, active duty, reserve and National Guard troops suffering from PTSD and other adjustment conditions. The Program provides safe, confidential, supportive, and educational opportunities for veterans who have faced challenges in their post-service transition. The Program allows veterans to meet with other veterans in support of their regaining of personal resilience and direction.
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. Suffolk County is home to the largest veterans populations in the State of New York.
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.