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Report: More Mental Health Services Would Make Pa. Schools Safer

Photo: AP

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A report on safety threats and security concerns in Pennsylvania schools concludes there is a need for better access to mental health services.
The task force led by the governor and elected auditor general released a 46-page report Monday that recommends expanded use of existing mental health programs and better ways to inform parents and students about what is currently available.
The broad findings of the report were made public in June, but the full document was just released and posted online.
Other recommendations include bolstering the physical security of school buildings and improving communication and training for teachers and other personnel.
A state law enacted in June dedicated $60 million for school safety grants and provided a way to handle anonymous reports of threats to schools. Schools can apply yearly for grants of $25,000 or more for such purposes as security assessments, security-related technology, training, counselors, police officers and anti-violence programs.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said that he does not believe that all schools are making mental health counselors available to every student who needs them, and that there is a particular need for those services among the poorest districts.
The "loudest call" for better access to mental health services, DePasquale said, came from students.
DePasquale and Gov. Tom Wolf, both Democrats, launched the school safety task force this year following a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. The task force held six regional hearings and collected comments and suggestions online.
"Perpetrators of school-based violence have wounded and killed students, teachers, and school employees across the country," the report said. "Shootings, stabbings and threats of other attacks by intruders and those within the school leave long-lasting, detrimental effects on individuals and communities. Violence, whether the threat of it or the memory of it, compromises students' ability to learn and grow."
The report said the task force heard requests at every meeting to expand the physical- and mental-health staff inside schools, including nurses, social workers, psychologists and counselors.
The report said schools and communities should work on ways to get more people to report concerns, and to improve student-to-student communication.