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Anderson, IN: District doing everything to address mental health/prevent another shooting

Sept 22, 2018, Jeffersonville (IN) News and Tribune: State seeks safer Hoosier schools With the May 25 Noblesville middle school shooting still fresh in everyone's minds, Anderson Community Schools started its academic year with an all-staff meeting dedicated to school security. … In that incident, a 13-year-old student shot and injured teacher Jason Seaman and student Ella Whistler, who was shot seven times. In response, Seaman wrestled the shooter to the ground. … School safety is also a priority of Gov. Eric Holcomb, who earlier this year requested a team of state leaders and other experts examine existing school protections and explore new ways to keep schools safe. A report with 18 recommendations was released Aug. 10, with four implemented immediately…. The report's recommendations focus on three areas: enhanced mental health services; safety equipment/technology/tools and training; and policy or legislative considerations. … Expanding mental health services available to school districts is seen as a significant way to prevent future school violence. ... • Make mental health services and resources available to every student. ... • Direct the Family and Social Services Administration to identify and implement a universal mental health screening tool for schools to use. • Require schools to participate in the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey [although participation is optional on the part of students/families]. • Direct FSSA to provide more training to educators on mental health risk factor recognition; direct schools to implement the Mental Health First Aid programs and report the progress. In 2015, state law identified the need to implement a statewide Mental Health First Aid training program. … …. ISTA has been advocating for trauma-informed care, which involves recognizing and responding to traumatized students and referring them to outside professionals when necessary. "If we don't do something about addressing that trauma, then it's impossible to really get to the heart of education and what that student needs educationally when they have so much emotional baggage," Meredith said…. "I hope they acknowledge we're at a point where we simply can't do more with less. We are at a breaking point in terms of school funding," Meredith said…. Recently, the Vigo County School Corp., in partnership with Hamilton Center, was awarded $2.8 million in federal funds over the next five years to better respond to the mental health needs of school children. Vigo was chosen in part because it has a strong partnership with Hamilton Center and it is "already offering great mental, emotional and social support services" benefiting students, said Adam Baker, IDOE spokesman.... The district will use the grant to train additional staff in Mental Health First Aid; add a mental health coordinator for the school district; over the five-year grant period, screen at least 90 percent of students for early identification of mental health needs; and increase student/family access to treatment and wraparound services. The grant funds will help ensure that all children who need mental health services have access to those services, said Rick Stevens, VCSC assistant director of student services and project manager. The state Department of Education has shown a commitment to students mental, social and emotional health. It has hired Christy Berger as assistant director of social, emotional, and behavioral wellness. "Indiana is one of only a few states in the nation to dedicate a position of this kind to social emotional learning efforts," stated Jennifer McCormick, state superintendent.

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