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Suffolk Notebook: Safety Net Program Faces More Than $8M Shortfall

Legislature passes Caylee's Law; Suffolk Police undergo media-relations training, unveil 9/11 memorial.

Between a drop in state reimbursement rates and an unexpected increase in case loads, County Executive Steve Levy on Thursday requested over $8 million in budget transfers to fund the county's Safety Net Assistance Program, a state-mandated relief program run through the Department of Social Services.

According to the text of a certificate of necessity, which was passed at Thursday's County Legislature meeting and sent to committee, New York State reduced its assistance reimbursement rate from 50 percent to 29 percent, "shifting significantly more of the financial burden to Suffolk County and creating a deficit in the Safety Net revenue budget."

In addition, in adopting its budget last year, the county had anticipated a faster economic recovery, hoping case loads would decrease rather than increase.

Among the $8.3 million in transfers, $3 million is requested from contractual expenses in DSS, $1.5 million in red light camera revenue, $1.75 million from patient care in health services and $1.5 million from education for the physically handicapped — which was budgeted at nearly $96 million in 2011.

Legislature Passes 'Caylee's Law'

In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict, a nationwide push to create "Caylee's Law" touched down in Suffolk County on Thursday when the Legislature unanimously passed a bill mandating the reporting of missing children within 24 hours of realizing their disappearance.

Similar bills are reportedly being considered in a handful of states across the country.

Suffolk's law, sponsored by Legis. Jon Cooper, D-Lloyd Harbor, would penalize guardians who fail to report a minor's disappearance within 24 hours of discovering the disappearance. Penalties could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a year in prison.

Suffolk Police Undergo Media Relations Training

The Suffolk County Police Department held a media relations lecture for its officers this week at Suffolk County Community College Brentwood Campus.

The training comes nearly two months after a freelance videographer with the Stringer News Service was arrested by SCPD for obstructing governmental administration while shooting video at the scene of a crime. The charges were later dropped.

Penny Parrish, an instructor from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. spoke about media relation basics and gave a detailed lecture regarding procedures and protocol to follow at all levels of level enforcement.

“It’s critical,” said Parrish, who was a longtime reporter and public information officer in Minneapolis. “Just an awareness of cameras, and understanding there is a difference between the legacy media and social media and how to use and benefit from each one is helpful.”

Along with communicating with the department’s public information office, dealing with external crises with social media and building helpful relationships with the press, Parrish touched on many issues that have developed across the country between law enforcement and the media.

“The Suffolk County Police Department is committed to working with the media to keep the community we serve informed,” said Suffolk County Police Deputy Chief Christopher Bergold. “We'll be looking to do more of this and increase training in the future.”

Suffolk Police Dedicate World Trade Center Memorial

Two days before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Suffolk County Police unveiled a steel beam in its headquarters in recognition of the members of the Suffolk County Police Department who responded to the disaster in the days and weeks following the attacks.

Chris Vaccaro contributed to this report.

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