New money coming to Ohio schools for mental health, violence prevention

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EASTLAKE– After a gunman shot and killed nine people outside a bar in a popular nightlife area of downtown Dayton, Governor Mike DeWine spoke at a vigil for the victims, attempting to console the city.

“We are here tonight because we know that we cannot ease the pain of those families who have lost someone,” DeWine said. But his words were nearly drowned out by the crowd, which began to shout, “do something!”.

Two days later on August 6, DeWine announced a sweeping 17-point plan to address gun violence.

In addition to a new attempt at red flag laws and proposed increased background checks for firearms DeWine promised $675 million on October 1st to fund student wellness and mental health in Ohio schools.

“It is clear that the assailant while in high school clearly exhibited antisocial behaviors, antisocial behaviors that should have alerted anyone that knew about them that there was a problem, a serious problem, with this high school student,” DeWine said in a press conference.

Districts will get funding based on the number of students and the poverty level at the school. Cleveland Metropolitan School District could receive nearly $9 million to fund wrap-around services and mental wellbeing programs for students.

At Willoughby-Eastlake City School District administrators have already begun what they call a “cutting edge” program to address mental health. The district could be up for another $600,000 in new funding on October 1st.

Through a partnership with Crossroads Health, the district now has counselors in every school building and also inside classrooms. Counselors also get summer break and bonuses at the start and end of the year to reduce turnover and give students consistency.

Lauren Wright oversees all the Crossroads Health service providers in Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools and explained they are always looking to recognize warning signs.

“Risk of suicide or homicide or self-harm or things such as that absolutely our providers are always on the ready to look out for that,” Wright said.

Wright explained that students no longer need to be singled out to receive mental health services, instead, counselors will automatically be in classrooms handling everything from minor social concerns to mental health diagnoses.

“I have literally heard the words, you saved my life,” she said.

Willoughby-Eastlake Superintendent Steve Thompson says the district’s bullet resistance glass, surveillance cameras, and bullpens at entrances should be a last resort to school safety.

Thompson believes mental health awareness and helping students address their problems early in life is the best way to help students succeed in life and prevent violence at school.

“This is really our most powerful way to proactively stop not just shooting clear at this end of the spectrum but disputes between students,” he said.

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