In 2017, Mary Schulz, a social worker in Northwest Arkansas, was driving into work when a fire truck and police cruiser passed by with their flashing emergency lights on driving to some unknown emergency. She wondered who they were saving? A child, father, mother or grandparent? She smiled to herself knowing there are still people out there who still choose this stressful and mentally draining profession. Then it struck her…”Who will be there for them when they need help?”
Mary began researching available facilities in NWA that provided mental health services for first responders and discovered limited resources. Next, she reached out to individual first responders in her community to get their insight. She learned they were actively struggling with mental health issues and were completely unaware of these services or how to even access them. They also shared their personal stories of being exposed to multiple crisis during their careers and were experiencing a high frequency of suicidal thoughts. Their situation was rapidly deteriorating and she smartly formed the nonprofit organization H.E.R.O.E.S. (Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Everyday Struggles) to enhance mental health services for first responders. She also created and manages the successful Resource Advocacy Program at the Bentonville Police Department to connect its entire employee base with area resources that provide services such as child care, health care options and assisting with medical billing issues.
Mary quickly assembled a uniquely qualified team to lead HEROES consisting of law enforcement, health care professionals and local business leaders. This team is unique due to its compilation of subject matter experts with extensive experience working as first responders and supporting community roles. They understand the reluctance of first responders asking for help and are best suited to create programs that build mutual trust.