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Niagara University receives $100,000 grant to expand disability awareness training to NYS probation officers


Wed, Feb 28th 2024 07:10 pm

Niagara University Press Release 

Niagara University has received a $100,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to expand its specialized training in the area of disabilities to the New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives.

The training will increase disability knowledge and awareness among the state’s probation officers, improving probationer’s utilization of community resources and potentially reducing recidivism among probation clients with complex needs.

This is the third year the Cabrini Foundation has funded this initiative, which has provided customized training for the probation departments in both Niagara and Erie counties.

“Everyone needs disability awareness training,” said David V. Whalen, project director of Niagara University’s first responder disability awareness training. “This grant will enable NU FRDAT to extend its customized training to probation staff throughout New York state to better prepare them to recognize, identify, approach, interact and respond to their probationers with disabilities.”

Previous research conducted by faculty in NU’s department of criminology and criminal justice indicated probationers who have mental health and substance use issues that are not properly addressed are more likely to have their probation revoked or to be incarcerated. Without proper training, probation officers are often unable to identify specific needs when they are not disclosed by probationers; consequently, mental health issues and nonobvious disabilities often go unnoticed.

NU FRDAT will bring the program to the probation departments in New York state’s 55 counties and in the five boroughs of New York City through a “train the trainer” and an e-learning series with the intention to build it into the NYS Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives new hire training. The training will educate probation officers on recognizing disability indicators/characteristics; equip them with the knowledge needed to identify specific disabilities; and provide guidance on appropriate responses, such as utilizing community resources and support services.

"Our grantees are on the front lines each and every day helping to improve outcomes for underserved New Yorkers," said Alfred F. Kelly Jr., executive chairman of Visa and chair of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation board. “Our 2024 grants will provide over 500 nonprofits with the resources to bolster innovative and life-changing programs across New York state. From prioritizing mental health to helping newly arrived immigrants navigate complex legal systems, grantees will continue to impact every corner of New York and help communities thrive.”

This new program will expand NU FRDAT’s current offerings, which include customized training to law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, and 911 telecommunicators, as well as training for emergency management personnel, both on site and in virtual formats. It was created in cooperation with all major first responder associations, councils and state offices, and designed to give first responders the knowledge necessary to best serve and respond to individuals with disabilities. In 2020, NU FRDAT was invited to work with CSE1 and the Family Justice Center to develop and provide training for disability organizations, domestic violence agencies, and legal and law enforcement entities in Western New York to help them better assist people diagnosed with intellectual/developmental disabilities who have experienced domestic violence.

More About Mother Cabrini Health Foundation

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of vulnerable communities, eliminate barriers to care, and bridge gaps in health services. Named after a tireless advocate for immigrants, children and the poor, the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation funds programs and initiatives across New York state that either provide direct health care services or address the social determinants of health. For more information, visit https://www.cabrinihealth.org/.

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