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Training For Crucial Hotline Work

New Hyde Park resident battles breast cancer, offers help


New Hyde Park resident and breast cancer survivor Debra Taylor is one of 11 women newly trained for the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program.  


Taylor was inspired to volunteer at the program after attending its support group herself.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012 and has since undergone a double mastectomy and several other surgeries.  In February she discovered the eight-week support group offered by the Adelphi program, which she described as “inspiring.” 


“We became very close, we’re still friends and meet up,” Taylor says.  After the support she received, volunteering her own time to the program and helping other women seemed like the perfect way to give back.  “There’s still so much more to do,” she says.    


The program has offered information, education, and support to breast cancer patients, their families, and the community at large for the past 33 years.  The primary form of support is a toll-free hotline available to any New York state residents.  It’s staffed by social workers and volunteers like Taylor, all of whom must first complete an intensive, 20 hour training course before answering a call. 


The four-week training course is the “whole package” according to Taylor. Volunteers are instructed in all aspects of the program’s work: from answering calls on the hotline to going out and doing outreach in the community.  They even receive some medical training.  


There’s also a teen program, which is important to Taylor who has two teenage daughters herself.


“It’s something they’ll always have to worry about since their mom had it,” she explains. 


Once the instruction ends, there’s an exit interview to determine placement within the organization, but volunteers are given the freedom to move between positions and try everything. After being placed, there’s further training until the volunteer feels completely comfortable in their position.  And social workers are always on hand to provide backup.


Taylor has yet to have her final interview and is still meeting with social workers to determine which part of the organization she’ll be volunteering in.  She’s leaning towards community outreach because of her background in psychology and education, but either way she’s found the experience of the training course to be life-changing.


“I feel more empowered,” she says.  


The hotline, available seven days a week, fields over 4,000 calls a year and the program’s website sees some 350,000 visits annually. Callers receive emotional support and can even get medical referrals.


Bilingual social workers are also on hand to help. The hotline is regional and open to all New Yorkers, but since the program is based out of Adelphi the community outreach and support group aspects are more local. 


The Adelphi School of Social Work started the program in 1980 during a time when breast cancer wasn’t an issue that got much discussion. The program receives some state funding and although it’s closely tied to Adelphi, it maintains autonomy.