Mental Health Specialist hired to keep schools safe

Mental Health Specialist hired to keep schools safe
YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- Plans to enhance school security around the Yakima Valley are now also focusing on brain power. Until now, regular session have focused on access to buildings and perhaps adding more resource officers.

KIMA learned a new change involved paying more attention to mental health. Natalie Eucce reports how school districts hope to be able to spot trouble before it happens.

East Valley School District has had a representative at almost every school security meeting with law enforcement for the past 3 months.

"It's a serious problem and we want to do everything we can to be prepared, keep our kids safe," said Assistant Superintendent Mike Messenger. "That's most important."

Leaders from the different school districts around the Yakima Valley have been meeting regularly to come up with their own action plans to limit the danger on campus. A lot of that has focused on building security and possibly adding more armed officers. Now, there's something new.

"To understand what mental health issues might be going on," Messenger said.

A Mental health specialist from Central Washington Comprehensive Mental Health will work with the group to help spot the warning signs of students who might act out and help with any counseling after any trouble.

"Education can't occur if they're not secure and if we have people being shot and hurt," Yakima County Sheriff's Lieutenant Brian Winter said.

Regular mental evaluations used to be done on campuses, but they got dropped when money got tight. Educating superintendents in this area will give them tools to share with principals and teachers. They're the ones who will need it most to understand students and keep their schools safe.