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 health services.
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.