Douglas County school safety money could go to mental health support

Jul 17, 2019 by

Standardizing school equipment and training also a priority

Two committees presented more than a dozen ideas Tuesday for $10 million to make Douglas County schools safer, but they largely boiled down to two major approaches: standardize schools’ plans and equipment, and better support for young people dealing with mental illnesses and trauma.

It isn’t clear how much of each approach the Douglas County commissioners will be able to fund. The presenters didn’t lay out price tags for their ideas at the Tuesday meeting, and commissioners held off on endorsing any plans.

The commissioners had voted in May to provide $13.3 million for school security. It includes $10 million in one-time money; $3 million in ongoing funds for police officers in schools, which schools must match; and $300,000 for a mental health response team to assist when students are in crisis

Sarah Ericson, director of diversion in the 18th Judicial District, spoke on behalf of a committee that looked for mental health investments. She said the group recommends funding culture assessments at all schools willing to participate, and following that up with money for programs on social-emotional learning, suicide prevention and mental health support.

The county also could put money toward a new position to help young people navigate the mental health system and a public campaign to raise awareness of resources and to reduce the stigma of mental illness, Ericson said.

“We want our students to be equipped to talk positively about mental health,” she said.

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