Pinellas leaders launch mental health foundation benefitting first responders
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. Image via PCSO.

Pinellas Co Sheriff
The program covers costs for counseling and other mental health services.

Pinellas County leaders officially launched the Mental Health for Heroes (HEROES) Foundation Wednesday to help first responders and their immediate family members recover from grief and trauma.

The program covers costs for counseling and other mental health services.

“Our goal is to give back to those who serve us,” Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long said. “While there are many mental health programs for the general public, there are very few programs specifically designed to meet the unique needs of first responders. This foundation is critical for both first responders and their families in order to restore them to a place of health and wellbeing.”

Approximately 30% of first responders develop behavioral health conditions including, but not limited to depression, aggressive behavior and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Nationwide, 186 first responders took their own lives in 2020 and 171 died by suicide in 2021, including at least four Florida officers, according to an analysis from WKMG in Orlando.

“We need to break the negative stigma in the law enforcement and the first responder community about the need for mental health services,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

“This is a tough job and while many agencies provide services for their members, some are more limited. This program will help eliminate the stigma and provide much needed resources to all of the men and women that put their lives on the line to keep our community safe.”

In all, HEROES is being established with more than $500,000 from Tampa Bay area companies and foundations.

Tom Pepin, a Tampa area philanthropist, former CEO of Pepin Distributing company and founder of the Pepin Family Foundation announced Wednesday he is committing $100,000 to HEROS.

“It is absolutely vital that we, as a community, look after those who look after us,” Pepin said. “That’s why I’m challenging the Bay Area business community to match my contribution. Together, we can ensure no first responder or their family member goes without the mental health services they need to stay on the job or support their loved ones.”

In addition to the Pepin Family Foundation, the Tampa Bay Rays, Duke Energy, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Bayfront Health, Vetted Security Solutions, the Vinik Family Foundation, Richard O. Jacobson and the Frank Chivas Family are financially supporting the Foundation. The goal is to provide an average of 250 hours of mental health services per month to first responders.

Across the nation, fewer than 5% of first responding agencies have suicide prevention or mental health wellness programs, according to officials.

Staff Reports

One comment

  • PeterH

    September 21, 2022 at 2:39 pm

    The Republican gun lobby has created many social complications…….that Republicans refuse to solve.



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