LIVINGSTON COUNTY, NY (WROC) – The New York State Sheriffs Association has launched a program it says will allow sheriffs and deputies to come forward whenever they need help with of mental health and well-being.
Through grants, sheriffs and deputies can use AT&T FirstNet. It is a website and an online resource portal, where they can easily choose from a multitude of professional services.
Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty, also president of the association, says their mission is to expand mental health and wellness resources for members. Especially, he says, for those who suffer from post-traumatic stress. Through this new initiative, various sheriff’s office leaders can receive training on mental health awareness: how to recognize trauma, types of trauma and other stressors that members may be experiencing.
“It is the sheriffs themselves, who come forward and say; “Look, it’s time to change the culture, it’s time to change the stigma,” Dougherty said. “Make sure they understand this so they are not judged, but rather supported.”
He says that for a long time the law enforcement community has moved away from the topic of mental health. These services act as retraining agents in a way and teach them that it is “normal” to ask for help.
“There are a lot of cops who feel, ‘I’m going to lose my badge, my gun, I have to support my family, I have to be strong, I have to shut up,'” Dougherty said. “But when you’re off duty, our cops need to be able to decompress.”
These officer welfare issues are at the heart of Dougherty’s concerns. On July 21, when Officer Anthony Mazurkiewicz – a 29-year veteran of the Rochester Police Department – was shot and killed, alongside his partner, Sino Seng, who was also shot but is recovering.
“I didn’t know either of these two officers personally, but I feel it personally,” Dougherty said.
He says the effects of this can be unimaginable, and that’s why going forward, he wants to find ways to heal the law enforcement community – through many other bodies – and provide the tools they need for any situation.
Cops all over the state are going to tap into it, dispatchers in 911 centers, able to tap into it, corrections officers,” Doughtery said.