Feb 26, 2013 9:52 AM by KPAX News
MISSOULA - Teachers, administrators, parents and others met on Monday evening to talk about ways to keep Missoula County Public Schools safe by taking a look at mental health issues.
"I think this is born out in a lot of interesting research that these kids that have relationships, these kids who are equipped with good social skills do not act out in violent ways," commented Jim Parker with the Western Montana Mental Health Center.
The committee discussed ways to better care for students in all grade levels who may be suffering from mental health issues. Statistics show that about 20% of children have mental health issues, but 80% of them go untreated.
Monday's discussion revolved around prevention and intervention - building positive relationships with students to maintain a healthy, safe environment. Committee members also developed many questions to consider for potential changes in the system to address mental health needs.
"I think this community has been preemptive for many years in terms of these types of issues and it's best to continue on that road rather than to slow down in some way or be complacent and then react to a tragedy," MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle observed.
The committee plans to meet again in April with more recommendations in developing continuity and a streamlined system to better respond to mental health needs.
More committee meetings are set for Tuesday and Wednesday. The Public Safety Advisory Committee will gather on Tuesday, and the Facility Safety and Security Advisory Committee will meet on Wednesday. The meetings run from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the MCPS Business Building Board Room at 915 South Avenue West in Missoula
The Facilities Security Committee will review buildings' safety in regard to physical design and identify recommended improvements while the Public Safety Committee will review emergency response plans with local police, fire services and other emergency personnel, and make recommendations for improvements or additional collaborations.
MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle announced in December, after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting that MCPS, along with St. Patrick Hospital President Jeff Fee and Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir, would convene committees to review school safety procedures.