As you all know a few weeks ago, a deranged young man shot and killed several
young children, teachers and other individuals in Newton, Connecticut.
As always, in this country, the outcome of this tragedy has included a
media blitz of around the clock coverage that in many ways did more harm
than good, and political and social opportunists who continue to manipulate
the situation to forward their own, personal agendas.
I have sat back silently for several weeks to reflect and watch our reaction,
and I am disgruntled to say the least. The great and overwhelming debate
in which this country has engaged has been almost singularly over the
Second Amendment and gun control in the context of school safety - a relevant
discussion, I agree. But where is the discussion and great debate for
mental health services reform.
The sick young man who committed this atrocious crime obviously suffered
from some mental illness, and somewhere throughout his life, his family,
his school district and his community failed to either recognize, diagnose
and/or treat him. We see this everyday, and it makes the reality of this
tragedy all the more close to home when we look at it through the lens
of the sheer lack of resources in this country - in this community - for
mental health services.
Long-standing and hard-working organizations like ADAMH Board, Community
Counseling Services and the local Board of Developmental Disabilities
have been overworked and understaffed for so long because of budget cuts,
deficit spending and the sheer apathy within the legislature towards mental
Psychology, neuropsychology, psychiatry and other neurosciences have made
amazing advances in the area of mental illness, but to date, most of these
treatments and therapies are only available to those with the requisite
resources to take advantage of them.
Now, we can engage in the divisive debate over free access to such services
for those on public assistance or we can begin our discussion with the
recognition that there is a need in this country for overwhelming mental
health services reform. And further accept the proposition that such reforms
would only be as effective to the country as our ability to ensure its
widespread availability to the populace at large. Having that established,
let us begin a creative discussion on how we can best fund the reforms
we desperately need.
The Second Amendment and the debate over gun control has reared its head
over and over again in the wake of gun violence in this country. It cannot
be disputed that the awful power of firearms has far-exceeded that imagined
by the drafters of the Constitution. And there are grave and serious concerns
of access and safety when someone - anyone -brings a firearm into the
presence of minor children, especially in a school setting where children's
age, maturity, and comfort and exposure to firearms differ in scope and
range. Not to mention the enormous pressures that teachers and staff already
face in light of the broad, sweeping changes to state and federally mandated
curriculum requirements, and teacher / district grading and rating systems.
The presence of firearms in an educational environment may not be route
take under these circumstances.
When I was in high school (not all that long ago), I remember having a
Bucyrus Police Officer constantly in the school building as a school resource
officer. He was armed, and obviously trained to deal with hostile - even
armed - conflict. The value of his presence in the school could not be
quantified, and he had a great relationship with teachers, staff and students
which made him easy to approach and talk to. Funding issues eventually
led to the program being dropped, but this is an option that we need to
explore again in light of this tragedy. And it seems an appropriate middle
ground within the context of that Second Amendment debate.
Regardless, I challenge the reader in light of these divisive debates to
put away the emotion and anger stirred by your conviction to either side
of the discussion, and remember those innocent children, and brave teachers
and administrators. Remember "even in our sleep, pain which cannot
forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, when in our despair, against
our will comes wisdom by the awful grace of God." Pray for wisdom.