HEART 9/11 is a team of First Responders – members of the FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, and NYC Building Trades – who bonded while working together during the 9/11 Rescue Recovery Mission and continue to utilize their experience and skills by volunteering in communities affected by disaster. To date, HEART 9/11 has launched over 278 deployments in 3 countries and 13 states, built over 25 veteran homes, responded to 39 disasters, rebuilt 813 houses, and trained 1,000 CT law enforcement in the HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders. HEART 9/11 members find meaning through our altruism as we heal ourselves by helping others.

The HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders is “for first responders delivered by first responders” who have learned to manage stress and/or other stress-related symptoms. The Program is the result of a long-standing partnership

The Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) program was developed by Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of The Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine. This program will provide clinicians the self-care tools they need to reduce stress, regain a sense of control, reduce medical symptoms, and enhance their quality of life. The Benson-Henry Institute is the gold standard of stress self-care for medical clinicians, and HEART 9/11 is honored to have been selected to partner with such prestigious leaders in the industry.

First responders are under a tremendous amount of stress, often mismanaged, leading to drug/alcohol abuse, relationship issues, divorce, financial hardships, physical health issues, lost time at work, and, unfortunately, high suicide rates.

The HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders will not only enhance the first responders personal and professional life, but a significant benefit will be realized by their departments and communities  in the following areas: Reduction in sick time • Better decision making • Better employees • More production • Better community relations • Better relationships with colleagues  • Less civilian complaints

HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders Training History

  • HEART 9/11 has trained Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) National Wellness Executives and anticipate their endorsement of the SMART Program for First Responders
  • HEART 9/11 is in conversation regarding the implementation of the SMART Program for First Responders Training with:
    NJ State Police Academy
    UMASS College training center for campus and surrounding area police departments
  • HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders has been delivered to 75 Connecticut city police departments during Peer-to-Peer support programs
  • HEART 9/11 is currently training Yale University police personnel
  • HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders has been certified by the Connecticut State Law Enforcement Training Commission
  • HEART 9/11 has trained over 1,000 Connecticut veteran police officers at annual police state re-certification programs
  • HEART 9/11 is currently conducting training sessions in CT police academies

HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders

The HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders utilizes the three core components of the BHI SMART Program – Relaxation Response, Stress Awareness, and Adaptive Strategies to develop resiliency.

Responders will be instructed in the basic scientific evidence regarding the mind and body relationships. Responders will begin to appreciate the science behind the biology of thought and the emotions produced. They will learn to counteract the stress response’s negative consequences by learning the relaxation response and their ability to restructure their cognitive reactions to stressful situations. In short, the responders will make better decisions. Through this training, their reaction to stressful circumstances will be to relax, breath tactically, and slow down the event to a more manageable and clearer perception of the real threat. Through repetition and discipline, we hope to re-channel a responder’s reaction to an action from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex. This physiological neuroplasticity ignition will produce a safer and more thoughtful response, which will have far better results for the responder, the community member, the department, and the community
at large.

 Most programs in the first responder world are reactive in nature. It is crucial we have reactive programs that can stabilize a responder or a responder community that has suffered through chronic or acute stress. However, we also offer the HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders as an equally important proactive initiative. Just as a responder is given tactical tools (weapons, radio, motor vehicles), there is also a need to equip new responders with self-care tools. As we know, responders will face traumas and stressful situations where having the proper training (HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders) allows them to ameliorate those constant stressors before they lead to conditions that need to be addressed in a reactive and costly (both personally and departmentally) manner.

The following programs can be presented in person or via video conference. Listed below are a few options for the delivery of the HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders.

Introductory Program (2 hours) Request Information
Attendees will be introduced to the basic tenets of the HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders by touching on each of the 8 core modules of the Program.

Responder Training Program (90 Minute Modules) Request Information
In-depth analysis of the mind-body HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders.
An 8-week module program appropriate for officers with chronic stress issues, burnout, allostatic load issues, or significantly acute incidents that are unmanageable.
Also ideal for police cadet academy training

Train-the-Trainer Program Request Information– Includes an 8-week HEART 9/11 SMART Program for First Responders, 2 days (16 hours) implementation course delivered by a Harvard Benson-Henry Institute instructor, a virtual Harvard University psychology academy 1 college credit course • Upon completion of all phases trainers can deliver the program to their department members and may be asked by HEART 9/11 to train other officers • Trainee and instructor manual will be provided

Customized Training Programs Request Information
HEART 9/11 can modify this Program to meet the needs of a department or agency that has specific requirements or limitations.
Senior leadership training
Promotional candidate training
Emergency services training


Dr. Gregory Fricchione, MD, Harvard Medical School Mind-Body Medicine
Professor of Psychiatry
Dr. Steven Southwick, MD, Yale University Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry,
PTSD and Resilience
Dr. John Denninger, MD, Ph.D., Director of Research, BHI

Dr. Spencer Eth, MD, University of Miami Medical Director
Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program

Dr. Louisa Sylvia, Ph.D., Director of Health and Wellness at the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program


Lt. William Keegan, PAPD Night Commander 9/11 Rescue Recovery (Retired)
Lt. Richard Robinson/ Sgt. Scott Ruszczyk
Newtown, CT PD Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Assistant Chief Rebeca Garcia, Bridgeport CT PD
Lt. Owen McCaffrey, NYPD ESU 9/11 Rescue Recovery (Retired)
Sgt. Amity LaFantano, Danbury CT PD
Lt. Angelo Sacco, FDNY, Licensed Clinical Social Worker-NYS
Lt. Drew Kane, Program Director, FDNY-CSU Addiction Treatment Program,
Licensed Master Social Worker-NYS
Donna Lamonaco, Founder of the NJ State Police Survivors of the Triangle

Follow us:

Twitter  @heart911team

Facebook  @HEART911

Instagram @teamheart911

For more information contact Sgt. Scott Ryszczyk, Newtown CT PD at scottruszczyk@heart911.org or Lt. Angelo Sacco, FDNY Licensed Clinical Social Worker-NYS at asaccolcsw@gmail.com