About Blue H.E.L.P.
It is the mission of Blue H.E.L.P. to reduce mental health stigma through education, advocate for benefits for those suffering from post-traumatic stress, acknowledge the service and sacrifice of law enforcement officers we lost to suicide, assist officers in their search for healing, and to bring awareness to suicide and mental health issues.
Blue H.E.L.P. began in 2015 after The Price They Pay was written by two of it’s founders; Karen Solomon and Jeffrey McGill. It became clear to Karen, Jeff and Steve Hough that suicide prevention and care for the families afterward was not offered in law enforcement; compassion and understanding took a backseat to stigma and shame. In 2017, they incorporated and received their 501(c)3 designation and are now the only organization in the country that collects law enforcement suicide data and regularly supports families in the aftermath.
Meet the Blue H.E.L.P. Team
PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER
Karen is the creator of www.1sthelp.net and the author of Hearts Beneath the Badge and The Price They Pay as well as many articles about law enforcement suicid. Her focus is the stories of the families who have lost an officer to suicide and the officers who suffer with the feeling that they have nowhere to turn. Karen was a member of the 2018 Officer Safety and Wellness Group Meeting and is currently the co-Chair of the Data and Research Committee of the National Consortium on Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention. Karen is also the wife of a police officer,
VICE PRESIDENT AND CO-FOUNDER
Jeff began his law enforcement career with four years of military service. He then entered the civilian law enforcement profession at the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office where he stayed full-time for 15 years. Jeff had numerous assignments including patrol, street crimes, beach/marine unit, investigations, sex offender unit, and gang intelligence. Hi is the co-author of The Price They Pay Jeff is now the Academy Director at Northwest Florida State College overseeing training for basic recruits as well as advanced courses for certified officers.
SECRETARY AND CO-FOUNDER
Steven is a 20-year veteran of Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. During his time with the Sheriff’s Office Steven also spent seven years assigned as a Task Force Officer for the US Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force based in Pensacola, FL. While serving a warrant with the task force Steven was shot numerous times, including once in the face. As a result of his actions, Steven was awarded the Congressional Badge of Bravery, United States Marshal’s Purple Heart, and the Medal of Valor from Santa Rosa County. Steven has since retired from the Okaloosa county Sheriff’s Office and is currently working as an inspector with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
In 1985, Mark began his Law Enforcement career with the Braintree Police Department and later transferred to the Amtrak Police Department. In 1993, Mark moved to Florida and continued his career with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, where he retired as a Patrol Sergeant in March of 2019. During his career, Mark held several positions and assignments to include Peer Support Team and Critical Incident Stress Management Team. Mark is a Police Academy Instructor at the Seminole State College Police Academy.
Mark is dedicated to advocating for the elimination of the stigma concerning mental health issues of Law Enforcement Officers and prevention of Law Enforcement Officer suicides. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) and Bravo748 Speakers Bureau.
Nicholas Greco IV, M.S., B.C.E.T.S., C.A.T.S.M., F.A.A.E.T.S., is President and Founder of C3 Education and Research, Inc., a training and consulting firm. Nick has held multiple positions over a 20-year career in clinical operations, project management, multidisciplinary training for civilians and law enforcement, as well as diagnostics and assessment. He has directed, managed, and presented training programs globally across various topics. He is an author on over 300 book reviews, has presented globally on nearly 200 professional presentations, and has authored or co-authored over 35 articles in psychiatry and psychology.
Joe is the Director of Business Development for Team One Network – an international training company based out of Fredericksburg, VA. He retired from the United States Army as a Military Police First Sergeant in the summer of 2016 after more than 20-years of service. His last few military assignments include; Operations Sergeant Major for a Combined Arms Training Brigade, Senior Enlisted Advisor and Tactics Instructor for the Department of Military Science at West Point, Equal Opportunity Program Manager for the United States Military Academy, and First Sergeant for a Military Police Initial Entry Training Company. Learn more about Joe and the VennLeader Model at www.VennLeader.com.
ShaRonda Young Calderon is the widow of Deputy Homero Calderon, an 18yr veteran with the Dallas County Sheriff Department, who died by suicide on June 29, 2018. She has a bachelor degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and currently pursuing advance studies in psychology. She and her husband started their career together in law enforcement with the Sheriff Dept in 2000. She currently works as a legal assistant for a small law firm in Dallas TX. ShaRonda has become an advocate for mental health and suicide awareness because she understands the difficulties living with and the stigma attached to it.
Bryanna’s father was a Corrections Officer for 22 years, retiring as a Captain for the state of Massachusetts. After about 18 months of retirement, he died by suicide following a long battle with depression and PTSD. As a result, Bryanna and a friend started the On Guard Initiative where she organized multiple 5k’s and conferences, spoke nationally, assisted officers & families in crisis, and helped influence a mental health reform bill for Correction Officers in Massachusetts. Bryanna is extremely passionate about suicide prevention and participated in the first study of its kind at Northeastern University about Correction Officer mental health and suicide.
Bryanna has a Bachelor’s Degree from University of Rhode Island, where she studied Public Health with a focus on behavioral health and health promotion.
Steven Casstevens is the Chief of Police with the Buffalo Grove, IL Police Department. He retired in 2011 as an Assistant Chief with the Hoffman Estates, IL Police Department, where he served for nearly 30 years. Steve is a Past President of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP). He is also President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and will serve as the Association’s President in 2019. He serves on the Executive Committee of “Fight Crime-Invest in Kids” as well as their National Leadership Council. He also serves on the Advisory Board for the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
Brian is a Marine Corps Veteran and has been in law enforcement for nearly 20 years. He currently works for an agency in the Denver, CO metro area. Brian is also the owner of Mental Ammo, a law enforcement training provider. He serves as the Vice Chair for Colorado P.O.S.T. Arrest Control SME Committee. Brian is a charter member of International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association (ILEETA) where he also serves as an editor to the Officer Safety and Use of Force section of the ILEETA Journal.
Crystal is dedicated for being an advocating for Crisis Intervention and stopping the stigma concerning law enforcement mental health. Crystal has taken advantage of being able to tell their story and became a CIT Trainer and Advocate. She created a Crisis Intervention Training for Law Enforcement video with the San Bernardino County Advanced Officers Training and San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health that is played at all Academy classes.
Nicole takes to heart and sincere pride in her position as Honor Box Coordinator for Blue H.E.L.P. Nicole has found her purpose in working with and learning from other widows.
Wendy was the wife of a twenty five year veteran Officer David McIlwraith, who lost his battle with P.T.S. and died by suicide on May 10, 2011. Wendy has worked as a publicist, freelance journalist and a medical assistant. She is the creator of the Facebook page “Bound by the Shield’ where she offers support, current news and updates on law enforcement topics; primarily geared toward law enforcement mental health and suicide. Wendy is working with several Georgia lawmakers to pass laws which will aid officers in their search for emotional assistance. She speaks about the aftermath of police officer suicide hopes to create a national protocol for post-suicide family support.
Dwayne is a 21 year veteran of the Joliet Police Department, currently serving as a patrol sergeant. Dwayne was introduced to law enforcement at a young age, with both parents being members of the law enforcement community. Dwayne has been a crisis negotiator for over 15 years as well as both a member and speaker on his department’s peer assistance team. He is a CIT officer, a certified crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and he is also certified in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. He currently holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has a future goal of obtaining a degree in social work. Officer wellness is extremely important to Dwayne as he continues his work to erase the stigma associated with seeking mental health assistance.
Kelly Preston has a life time of community service. She started as an EMT/Firefighter in 1993 and then became a Deputy Jailer. She went on to become a 9-1-1 Dispatcher for 20 years. She took medical retirement for PTS in 2017 after her husband who was a Newport Police Officer and a 20 year police veteran and Marine Veteran committed suicide in January of 2016 while she was on shift. She is a Director at Behind the Badge, and has 4 children.
Sara worked in emergency services since 2007, as a firefighter/EMS. In 2012, she began working full time in Police Communications as a Dispatcher. Her husband for the same police department until his death in 2017. Sean died by suicide on June 17, 2017. At the age of 30, Sara became a widow a single mom of a nine-month baby boy. Since her husband’s death, she has become actively involved in suicide prevention and mental health well-being for first responders. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Therapy specializing in trauma.