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Preventing Another Tucson: Cobb Agencies Partner to Provide Mental Health Services | Business

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Preventing Another Tucson: Cobb Agencies Partner to Provide Mental Health Services
Preventing Another Tucson: Cobb Agencies Partner to Provide Mental Health Services

POWDER SPRINGS, GA -- One month after the Tucson massacre, the nation continues to be inspired by Representative Gabrielle Giffords' miraculously recovery.

But many citizens remain vexed about why the event occurred in the first place, which begs the question, "Why did [the 22-year-old alleged shooter] Jared Loughner slip through the cracks, and what could have been done to prevent this tragedy?"

The Cobb County School District and Community Services Board asked the very same question in 2008. As a result, they implemented prevention efforts for just such events by applying for and receiving an $8.5 million federal grant called Safe Schools/Healthy Students.

Over the past three years, numerous other agencies have joined the effort, including:

* Cobb County Police Department
* Cobb Sheriff's Office
* Cobb Juvenile Court
* Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta
* Acworth Achievers
* Culture Connect Inc.
* Cobb Community Collaborative

This grant-funded initiative aims to help local communities integrate mental health, juvenile justice, law enforcement and educational services in an effort to create healthier communities and safer learning environments.

Cobb County used the funds to begin Success for All Students.

Since 2008, a multidisciplinary staff of mental health therapists; addiction counselors; family support specialists; juvenile court probation officers; representatives from the Cobb County Sheriff's Office and Police Department; and the mayors of Kennesaw, Acworth and Powder Springs have teamed up to provide intensive prevention and intervention services for students and families in North and West Cobb County.

The group's services include school-based mental health, violence and drug prevention programming; in-home family support, such as resource referrals during law enforcement calls; truancy intervention; peer mediation programs; and transition services for youth coming from other states or juvenile detention centers.

Additionally, Success for All Students provides mentoring for at-risk kids and after school learning initiatives like "In Our Own Hands," a project of Girls, Inc.

"The importance of early detection and intervention will help keep individuals on a track headed towards success versus failure and bad outcomes," said Tod Citron, executive director of the Cobb Community Services Board. "The value of community partnerships should never be understated. We are much stronger as a community when we are working together on behalf of the children and families we collectively serve."

Success for All Students has provided its services to over 600 children since its inception. Evaluation data supports a 40% decrease in school discipline events among these students.

In the past three years, Success for All Students has also observed a 45% decrease in fights at targeted high schools and a 48% decrease in students on juvenile probation.

As the program enters its final years of grant funding, Cobb County encourages local agencies and citizens alike to begin looking at how they play a role in maintaining a safe and healthy community.

"When different agencies team together, share resources and knowledge, there is no question our local community is better prepared to intervene with children and youth before unmet social, emotional and behavioral needs potentially spiral into violence and destruction," said Matt Yancey, project manager for Success for All Students. "Many agencies in the county are working with the same students and families, but for different reasons. Collaboration is key to providing the best interventions and reducing duplication of services. Despite remaining questions, it is certain that Loughner's mental health state will be evaluated to determine correlation between unmet mental health needs and his violent acts."