On Friday, the governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission heard testimony from experts on mental health, disaster response, and school safety. The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission was created by the governor and charged with studying policy and making recommendations on gun violence prevention, mental health, and school safety.
Mental Health/Trauma Services
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz warned against the “superficial response by many to conflate mental illness and violent behavior.” She urged the commission to ensure that “mental illness is…addressed as a public health not a criminal justice issue.”
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Pat Rehmer said that in the wake of Newtown, the demand for mental health services has increased.
“Because school shootings have very unique aspects, they may require a specific [disaster] plan,” said Rehmer, who discussed the way her department intervened at schools following the Sandy Hook shooting.
“School responses varied from 1 week to almost 2 months at the Sandy Hook school,” she said, and voiced the need for increased resources and better training that includes first aid psychological training and trauma intervention in schools.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen asked the state to address disaster response in municipalities as well because “a school system’s response and recovery are linked to that of it’s town.”
She also called for a standardized school response plan.
“Given Connecticut’s de-centralized government, there may not be a one-size fits all framework for assisting at each school, but there ought to be a basic framework,” Mullen said.
“One need not create a fortress in order to fortify a facility,” said Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. “How can school design naturally coordinate school security efforts?” he asked. “There is sophisticated and sensible and sensitive design work that can be done…we must commit ourselves to those approaches or we will regret what we have done to our schools.”