Lee school board member wants more counselors after shooting

Matt Grant

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Lee school board member wants more counselors after shooting

CREATED Dec. 17, 2012

FORT MYERS - In the wake of Friday's shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school the discussion is now turning towards mental health services.

Reports indicate the gunman had Asperger's Syndrome which is creating a national dialogue over mental illness and some are saying not enough is being done to identify and treat it.

"My heart goes out to those people," said Lee County School Board Chair Mary Fischer, who fought back tears.

In a memo to staff, Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke wrote: "We are left wondering when will our country pay serious attention to mental health issues?"

It's a sentiment echoed by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy over the weekend.

"I think our country needs to step it up quite a bit in that regard," said Malloy. "We need to reach out to families that are in crisis."

The issue is gaining momentum after Friday's shooting rampage that left more than two dozen people dead, including 20 children.

Fischer says every school needs to have "at least one" counselor.

"Often times people are who are trained, like our school counselors, social workers, nurses," said Fischer, "could identify maybe someone needing mental health assistance."

In other words, identify and treat mental illness early on.

"And have that be a preventative move," said Fischer, "for a tragedy like this."

Not all Lee County Schools have counselors. Some elementary schools have opted against it.

"I'm hoping they will reconsider," said Fischer.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Florida ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to mental health spending.

"We could always do better," said Sophia Adams with Lee Mental Health. "But I believe that our community does a wonderful job with the resources we have."

Lee Mental Health gets referrals from school counselors and family members, said Adams, who says there are resources for people who need help if they know where to look.

While they offer free mental health assessments, it ultimately comes down to recognizing there is a problem.

"Every community has a mental health center that has staff available most of the time to speak to someone," said Adams. "There are people out there that can answer your questions. You're not alone."

Adams says you can't speculate about why someone would do this but says the issues behind something this catastrophic are most likely deep-rooted.

Resources:

Lee Mental Health
David Lawrence Center

Mental Health Association of SWFL

Charlotte Behavioral Health Care
Aspergers Support Groups

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com

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