Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 137

A DIGS Model Program to Prevent Violence in Troubled Youth

If only the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium had reached Uvalde before the elementary school shooting there…

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

It was just too late. If only the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium had reached Uvalde before the elementary school shooting there, for it was designed to identify and refer high-risk students to mental health services. The media reported that the Uvalde perpetrator, a high school dropout, seemed to have had the signs that would have warranted intervention, including years of truancy, cruelty to animals, violence at home and school, being subjected to early bullying, and loneliness.

According to the article in the Texas Tribune on June 2, 2022, “Texas was building a program to find troubled students and prevent school shootings. It hadn’t reached Uvalde yet.”1 This Texas Consortium was created by State lawmakers in 2019 and operating in more than 300 school districts, compromising about 40% of the state’s school population. Already, more than 6000 students have been identified and referred. It is a psychiatrist, Steven R. Pliszka, MD, Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UT Health San Antonio, who is the administrator of the consortium-funded program.

At least this is a shining example of an innovative mental health program in a state that is invariably ranked low for access and funding of mental health services. That was even so when I worked in the public mental health sector for Baylor College of Medicine from 1977-89, but this is the kind of creative program that fits the prevention model of Dads Into Gun Safety (DIGS).

Governor Abbott had actually pushed for the consortium after the deadly 2018 mass gun killings in El Paso and Odessa. Perhaps the governor and legislature will come up with something more this time around, including speeding up the spread of the consortium coverage. Even if the consortium comes up to full capacity, much needs to be done in Texas and nationally to increase the referrals, access, and quality of psychiatric treatment for those of any age.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

Reference

1. Harper KB. Texas was building a program to find troubled students and prevent school shootings. It hadn’t reached Uvalde yet. The Texas Tribune. June 2, 2022. Accessed June 10, 2022. https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/02/uvalde-school-shooting-student-mental-health-program/