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Wellness program for law enforcement being rolled out in Onondaga County

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office is shedding a light on law enforcement and mental health, as it continues to take a toll on officers both locally and nationally.

Anxiety, trauma and stress are just some of the things law enforcement deals with when it comes to their job.

“Some cops have issues with alcoholism, depression, cops have a very high suicide rate, statistically if you look at Onondaga County you’ll see that,” said Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley.

But, Sheriff Shelley is hoping to prevent those things from happening.

“In my day you just sucked it up. You might talk to your wingman or something but you had to keep it all in because you’d never show weakness. Now we have an opportunity instead of keeping it all bottled up,” said Sheriff Shelley.

That opportunity is a new wellness program that the Sheriff’s Office will be rolling out this spring.

“We’ll have a wellness officer who will have an office at Jamesville and he’ll just go around and talk to officers, deputies. If they need to talk to him, he’ll make himself available,” said Sheriff Shelley.

With all conversations being kept confidential.

The program will be offered to deputies and other police agencies across the county.

“The taxpayers paid for this program, so all of us should benefit from it,” said Sheriff Shelley.

One of the many police departments that will have access to this program is Cicero. The department has nearly 30 officers and Ciceo Police Chief, Steve Rotunno, says all of his officers will benefit from the program.

“Something might have happened yesterday and it might take two weeks. It might take six months to maybe trigger them to realize that they need to talk to somebody,” said Chief Rotunno.

Adding that this program is long overdue.

“Just knowing that from the leadership down that we care about the officers,” said Chief Rotunno.

The wellness program will be available for only a year. The Sheriff’s Office is hoping to secure funding again next year to continue the program.

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