PCSD Mental health unit providing resources for threats against schools

PCSD Mental health unit providing resources for threats against schools

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, in which the shooter was well known to law enforcement, there have been questions as to why nothing was done to prevent it.

That's the same question that made the rounds in Tucson following the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

The shooter, Jared Loughner was well known to police, his fellow students were afraid of him, and he made threatening videos, but there was little law enforcement could do.

However, the Pima County Sheriff's Department did take action to increase the chances it wouldn't happen again.

The department formed a Mental Health Unit, separate from the criminal side.

"I think our value is enormous," said Sgt Jill Isley, a unit supervisor. "As a department we touch almost 10,000 cases a year."

Many of those are students who are reported to the unit through the Pima County Sheriff's Department's 13 school resource officers.

"We wanted to make sure people who need help, get help," she said. "Certainly not be a threat to harm themselves or other people."

The school resource officers build a trust with students which oftentimes results in tips and concerns about something another student said or maybe a posting on social media.

"We want to make sure we have a methodical way of doing things to make sure we don't miss anything," said Captain John Stuckey, of the Pima County Sheriff's Department. "We have protocols to deal with those Facebook threats or somebody overheard something at school."

Whether the student needs parental guidance or mental health treatment is a judgment call but one made much easier by having a separate unit.

"That's the beauty of my unit," Isley said. "We solely focus on the mental health aspect and not the criminal aspect."

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