SOUTH BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — From police, to EMS, to fire, our law enforcement officers and first responders are constantly under high stress that often sticks with them beyond the job. New York State is giving additional funding to a nonprofit that provides critical mental health training and seminars.
The state is giving $50,000 to the New York Law Enforcement Assistance Program, or NYLEAP, which provides mental health services to first responders statewide, including right here in Western New York.
“This is cops helping cops, corrections officers helping corrections officers, so on and so forth,” NYLEAP President Jim Banish said.
NYLEAP is a nonprofit organization providing free post critical incident seminars and peer to peer mental health training to police officers, firefighters and other law enforcement professionals. It is based on similar programs offered by the FBI, teaching coping strategies, trauma eddo, and promoting resiliency and healing. The state funding is critical for this volunteer-based organization.
“On day one, you see basically a shell of a person come in and it is very difficult for them to talk. By the third day on Wednesday, we’ve repaired a little piece of humanity,” Banish added. “This is a grassroots program that was built by officers for officers, so we don’t have any dedicated funding yet.”
Sen. Tim Kennedy announced $50,000 of state money will be gifted to the non-profit to host more trainings and seminars. Sen. Kennedy says he will fight for more money in the next budget cycle for these important sessions.
“This $50,000 is just a first step to what I hope is a long term arrangement,” Sen. Kennedy continued.
Sen. Kennedy says over the last two years, five officers have died by suicide in the 14220 zip code, which comprises South Buffalo.
“We’ve suffered a lot here even in the last year. Tops, we had the blizzard, there’s been officer involved shootings,” Buffalo Police Commissioner Joe Gramaglia said.
Gramaglia says his department has added mental health resources and expanded the peer to peer program within his department. He hopes these added resources help break the stigma.
“We’re tough people. We don’t like to talk about our problems. It’s a sign of weakness — and it’s not. You have to change that,” Gramaglia said. “Go get healthy. Go get well and make sure you stick with it. We have to break that stigma.”
To donate to NYLEAP, click here.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are resources available.
Crisis Services has a 24-hour hotline at (716) 834-3131.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.