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Mental Health Services Come Full Circle with Announcement of Mental Health Scholarship Funds

Thanks to the late Dr. Warren S. and Wilma “Billie” Riley, their son Warren M. Riley, and SHARE Foundation, the legacy of Dr. Warren Riley lives on. 

Dr. Warren Riley played an important role beyond what most might have expected in the 1960s. Dr. Riley was the Union County Public Health Medical Director for the Child-Family Guidance Center, the forerunner of the Community Mental Health Center, eventually becoming South Arkansas Regional Health Center (now NewHaven).  He acted as the liaison between the Arkansas State Hospital, physicians, and their patients in south Arkansas, served as the primary doctor at the jail, and made rounds at the 19-bed psychiatric unit due to limited staff. In his public practice, he provided medical backup for those suffering from alcoholism and made admissions to detox services at the state hospital.  Dr. Riley worked extensively with Arkansas Rehabilitation, which was the Alcohol Commission providing access to the local halfway house and parolees discharged from Cummins with a psychiatric diagnosis.

After his death and because of his hard work and dedication to the medical profession, the Riley Memorial Scholarship was developed and funded in 1993 by his wife. It is now known as the Dr. Warren S. and Wilma “Billie” Riley Memorial Scholarship.

Since its inception, SHARE Foundation has administered the scholarship with over $125,000 in funds for students pursuing their dreams of becoming a nurse or advancing their careers as a nurse.

In 2017, SHARE Foundation, residents, and community stakeholders developed the Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP).  Six focus areas were identified to proactively reduce long-term incidences of crime and violence.  Those areas were mentoring, re-entry, neighborhood watches/clean neighborhoods, parenting/life skills, jobs/targeted education, and mental health/substance abuse.  Coalitions were formed to develop and implement strategies to address issues identified and produce positive long-term outcomes. The VIP is now in its fifth year of implementation with numerous nonprofits, churches, law enforcement, and local businesses that have made a network of supports, opportunities, and activities focused on best practice strategies to change the odds for young people and families in need. 

One of those Riley scholarship recipients is Candace Guinn.  Candace graduated with her master’s degree in nursing and is a mental health Advanced Practice Nurse operating a clinic that she opened in 2019. Many of her patients suffer from mental health issues and addiction.  Benefitting from his family’s generosity, Candace Guinn is carrying on the Riley legacy as a mental health provider. She has also joined the VIP mental health and substance abuse coalition to give back to her community. 

SHARE Foundation in revising the work of the Union County Violence Intervention Plan, again with county residents and stakeholders, sees that mental health and substance abuse/misuse continues to be an issue.  Because of the outcry for greater availability of mental health professionals for youth and families, effective June 01, 2022, the Dr. Warren S. Riley and Wilma “Billie” Riley Memorial Scholarship is accepting applications for those pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work, psychology, or mental health counseling. Applicants must have completed all prerequisites and been accepted into their program of study and agree to a work requirement in Union County as outlined in the eligibility criteria.  Financial need is a priority the committee weighs heavily upon review of applications.

The visionary, Dr. Warren Riley, knew back in the 60s that helping those less fortunate would somehow reap great benefits to come.  Therefore, we believe the cycle of giving has come full circle.  The scholarship in his memory will continue serving those in need, and those beneficiaries will pay it forward by serving the community.  SHARE Foundation is grateful to be a part of his work that continues today.

To check eligibility criteria of the Dr. Warren S. Riley and Wilma “Billie” Riley Memorial Scholarship, visit the SHARE Foundation website and go to the scholarship page to see all available scholarships. Applications are submitted through the Scholarship Application Portal.  Deadline for fall applications is July 1.  

SHARE Foundation is a non-profit in Union County whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of the community. The Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP) was developed in order to make available a network of area supports, opportunities, and activities focused on best practice strategies for a community committed to changing the odds for individuals and families in need. The VIP can be viewed at  Contact Debbie Watts, VP of Community Impact for SHARE Foundation (870) 881-9015 for additional information about scholarships.

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