Three months after asking Suffolk County legislators to fill 28 open positions at the county's 911 emergency call center, representatives for dispatchers and operators were back before the Legislature this past week voicing concern that the problem has not been solved.
According to Newsday, following the legislative meeting, County Executive Steve Bellone approved the hiring of six new dispatchers and operators along with five promotions. So far, only two of the new hires have started.
Suzanne McBride, a dispatcher and union representative, said that since the workers' pleas in November, two more division employees retired, all but nullifying the new hires.
The shortage of employees caused problems when dispatchers tried to respond to emergency calls coming from drivers stranded in their cars during the Feb. 8 blizzard, McBride said.
Bellone said the county is working to fill the six vacancies as promised, and will look into ways to improve the call center's efficiency.
Pilot Program Designed For Vets With PTSD
Suffolk County has launched a new pilot program with the goal of helping veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The county is one of four municipalities in the state to launch a peer-to-peer program that allows veterans, active duty, reservists and National Guard troops with PTSD to sit down and speak with trained veteran personnel. Veterans serve as the facilitators of these sit-down groups, in hopes of providing comfort and familiarity to those who are seeking assistance.
“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 Steve 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 is named in honor of PFC Joseph Dwyer, a Suffolk County resident who joined the Army after 9/11 and was deployed to Iraq. Dwyer suffered from PTSD and later died.
Currently, the pilot program holds seven weekly meeting groups across Suffolk County with more than 78 veterans currently participating in the program. All meetings operate under anonymity to ensure the participation of the military community.
The Suffolk County Veteran's Service Agency will continue to have oversight of the program. State Sen. Lee Zeldin, R-Shirley, has secured $200,000 to fund the pilot phase of the program.