The Oklahoma Commission on School Security listened to a last round of ideas from state leaders Wednesday afternoon as the group prepared to wrap up its work.
The panel is expected to announce legislative recommendations at its last meeting, which is set for March 5. This week, the commission heard recommendations from two state agencies.
State Mental Health Commissioner Terri White pitched two programs:
• Mental health first-aid training. The 12-hour training course includes information about identifying warning signs and symptoms, crisis intervention and referring students to professional help. White equated it to a traditional first-aid class. “If you were to come up on a car accident, there are certain things you could do in that immediate situation until the professionals get there,” she said. “You're not expected to do open-heart surgery.” The in-person training would be voluntary and free to teachers, administrators and other school staff members. Certification would last for three years. White estimates the training would cost $570,000 per year.
• Specialized outreach and engagement teams. A small number of mentally ill people who are dangerous often lose contact with the mental health care system after leaving psychiatric hospitals or lockup facilities, White said. Six teams of mental health professionals would be distributed across the state: Oklahoma City, Tulsa and the four quadrants of Oklahoma. The professionals would maintain contact with those high-risk individuals and make sure they are connected to services. The cost would be about $1 million, White said.
Kim Carter, director of the Oklahoma office of Homeland Security, proposed one program:
• Oklahoma school safety and security resource center. The center would serve as a clearinghouse for training, school procedures and information for educators throughout the state, Carter said. It also would provide training for experts in the criminal justice and mental health fields. The center would be run by the Oklahoma office of Homeland Security, but other agencies could serve as partners. The center would cost about $522,000, Carter said.