AUSTIN, Texas — On Tuesday, a special Senate committee on the Uvalde school shooting heard public testimony on police training, school safety and social media. On Wednesday, the committee reconvened to focus on mental health and firearm safety.
One person who testified on Wednesday was Andy Keller, president and CEO of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Keller testified about the effects of mental illness on young people and how certain telemedicine programs are successfully helping schools identify children who need help and working with parents to get them the care they need.
Numerous pediatricians, psychologists and others in the health field testified.
Many gave recommendations like universal mental health courses for kids in school to educate and teach coping skills. They also asked to increase the number of behavioral health clinicians on campuses to intervene in a crisis.
A big topic was staffing shortages. Many who testified said there's a lack of employees to run the mental health programs we have in place today and will add in the future.
While many of the health care workers noted seeing an alarming number of children with mental health issues, and some pointed out that it's essential to remove the stigma when we are having these types of conversations.
"We must be cautious about how we discuss the need for mental health services in reaction to a shooting like this," said Alison Mohr Boleware with Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. "We do not want to incorrectly infer that violence is directly correlated with mental illness because, as has been shared, it creates a negative stigma for mental health."
In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting, access to mental health resources has been a huge push for Gov. Greg Abbott.
Wednesday's hearing also included testimony on firearm safety.
This committee and those in the House only make recommendations based on these hearings. They can use this to write bills to file in the next legislative session.
On Tuesday, experts told state senators that more consistent active shooter training is needed for Texas police officers.
"You heard testimony … that active shooter training has been trained for the last 10 years. So, I fact checked in the Basic Peace Officer Academy, section 35.23. There is one page of active shooter and it's related to active shooter concepts and principles. It's high-level information to include what the officer might experience during an active shooter event. It's woefully inadequate," said Stan Standridge, San Marcos Police Department chief and president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association.
Standridge argued that school districts, school resource officers and mental health professionals need to do more to address children who make threats to school safety.
Day two of public hearings for the Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans began at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
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