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May’s Web Content Theme is Children and Families
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The National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention will offer program and resource components that will provide improved capacity to reduce youth violence in the community. Author Brian Prioleau delves into approaches that will make students and teachers feel safer in schools for this month’s theme on children and families.
May’s Web Content Theme is Children and Families

A stark reality: there were 19 school shootings in American public schools in 2013 (the year after Sandy Hook), including shootings at an elementary school and four middle schools. There were nine shootings in colleges and universities. These incidences are so alien from most people’s memories of the school experience, it is hard to comprehend. The causes and contributing factors are myriad and complex with interactive effects and local contributors that make finding solutions dizzyingly difficult. But we must try.

The new National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention hopes to become an important tool to tackle the problem of increased violence impacting the lives of our young people. The initiative, developed by SAMHSA in conjunction with ten other organizations, is all about working through the problem and finding solutions.  

There are resource and program components to the National Resource Center’s approach. One of the program elements is Project LAUNCH. This is an initiative with 34 partners, including states, Native American nations, and non-governmental organizations. These grantees will work with other agency partners to integrate evidence-based mental health knowledge and practices into critical areas of kids’ lives with the goal of catching and treating problems early, which is consistent with well-established best practices. The five core prevention and promotion strategies that Project LAUNCH partners will use are: (1) screening and assessment in a variety of child-serving settings, (2) enhanced home visiting with an increased focus on social and emotional well-being, (3) mental health consultation in early care and educational programs, (4) family strengthening and parent skills training, and (5) integration of behavioral health into primary care settings.

Another grantee program receiving support from the National Resource Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention is Safe Schools/Healthy Students. This grant program supports seven states with the objective of achieving safer schools and communities along with promoting the well-being of all children, youth, and families.

Safe Schools/Healthy Students is driven by five elements. Element 1 targets the early childhood population through developing young children’s social and emotional skills. Element 2 promotes mental, emotional, and behavioral health for all children and youth by providing direct services, developing partnerships between mental health systems and school districts, and developing information-sharing policies and referral systems. Linking families, schools, and communities to increase youth and family engagement in planning and implementing programs is the goal of Element 3. Providing services that prevent or reduce substance use in the school and community is the goal of Element 4. Identifying issues, conditions, behaviors, and structures that contribute to unsafe environments and violence in schools is the aim of Element 5.

Sandra Williamson, Director of the National Resource Center at the American Institutes of Research, explained, “A resource specialist provides support to grantees. The specialist participates in monthly conference calls and works in concert with federal project officers who have strong backgrounds in the field. The resource specialist has content expertise and can focus on steps that will make students and teachers feel safer. We need a comprehensive strategy to make students aware when they are being pulled into healthy situations. This whole approach relies heavily on science and on research-based proven strategies. When federal dollars are provided, partners need to go to SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidenced-based Programs for proven interventions.”

The National Registry also contains extensive resource and learning portal components for professional educators and others who deal with kids to upgrade their knowledge base and skill set. Sandra Williamson summed it up by saying: “Our hope for the National Resource Center is that it will provide direct support to grantees’ efforts to prevent youth violence. We want to become a major resource for the field so that they access this first when there is a question or a problem. The end result will be that schools have improved capacity to prevent violence in the community, and further access to local mental health supports.”

For more information, visit the following resources online:

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