Herald-Sun editorial: Preparation for potential crisis is crucial

Dec. 24, 2012 @ 06:26 AM

Many debates in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting are raging right now, and they will continue. Some are proposing changes to the way that security is handled at elementary schools, indeed at all schools.

The debate over gun control has been renewed and has intensified, with President Obama promising action and tasking Vice President Biden with coming up with proposals.

Those debates will no doubt continue for some time. Some things, however, are obvious enough that broad-based agreement to some extent is already possible.

One is the need to improve care for mental illness in this country. The how and to what degree are elements that reasonable people can disagree on. And it is important to recognize that mental illness is not a sole reason for the tragic mass shooting incidents that we have seen. It may play a part, and indeed likely does in many cases, but so do a number of other factors.

An important component of putting the spotlight on mental illness is training professionals who intervene in crisis situations to recognize the signs. For five years, Crisis Intervention Teams have been in place in Durham. Those teams include first responders such as police and fire personnel, emergency medical services professionals, and staff members in government offices who might deal with a crisis situation.

As a part of the Durham County Strategic Plan Goal 2: Health and Well-being for All, that training is expanding to improve resources for those residents dealing with a possible mental health crisis, it was announced last week.

Mental Health First Aid, a 12-hour educational program, is being made available for people in the community.

“Regrettably, while we are not able to prevent all tragedies related to mental illness and gun violence, the overwhelming majority of people experiencing mental health symptoms lead full and productive lives,” said Ann Oshel, Durham site manager for Alliance Behavioral Healthcare.  “Everyone in the community shares the responsibility of assisting those who are struggling and most vulnerable. Prevention begins with having the right information at the right time and knowing where to go for help.”

Residents who are interested can contact Oshel at 919-651-8855 or Mike Smith with Durham County EMS at 919-560-8206.

We can all agree that training and resources need to be made available to those responding to a crisis situation. Preparation is critically important when the time comes.