NATICK, MASS. (WHDH) - The chief of the Natick Police Department has recently taken an extra step to help protect his staff, putting heart health front and center following a tragedy within the department. 

Chief of Police James Hicks said the death of a 39-year-old Natick police officer due to a suspected heart issue last year served as an eye-opener to many officers, especially those in their 30s.

“It had quite an impact on the department,” Hicks said. 

According to Sigma Tactical Health and Wellness, heart disease is the number one killer of active and retired police officers. 

“I think this is something that we really really need to be concerned about,” Hicks said. 

Hicks said there are screenings available, though many insurance companies won’t cover them if a person is too young. 

After the sudden death of the young officer raised concerns, Hicks got to work, finding a company that has developed a program that targets public safety workers for heart scans. 

“I said, ‘If they’re willing to do it and they’re willing to come to our department and our region, this is something I want to see done,’” Hicks told 7NEWS. 

Heart screenings will now be offered next week for public safety workers at police and fire departments in Natick, Framingham, Marlborough and Wayland. 

“The response has been fantastic,” Hicks said. 

The voluntary screenings are being paid for with a $65,000 grant from the MetroWest Health Foundation as well as $5,000 from each community participating. 

Hicks said about 97 people had signed up for screenings as of Friday.

(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox