County looks to expanding START program to prevent school violence

Supervisor Kathryn Barger

Los Angeles County’s School Threat Response Team program will be getting some assistance thanks to a unanimously approved motion co-authored by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn.

School Threat Response Team, or START, was founded in 2009 by the county’s Department of Mental Health in an effort to prevent campus violence through early identification and intervention.

The new motion instructs the director of mental health in coordination with the county CEO’s Office, Los Angeles County Office of Education, and Sheriff’s Department to report back in 30 days with recommendations to enhance the START program, including possible program expansion.

Input from other entities such as the faith-based community, local non-profit organizations, community providers, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, educational personnel and other relevant County departments are also moved to help.

“Early identification and intervention are vital in our mutual effort to identify and prevent possible incidents of school violence,” said Supervisor Barger. “We cannot ignore the red flags, and we must actively seek out troubled young people and get them the help they need before a tragedy occurs.”

START is currently staffed by 10 clinicians working with local law enforcement to respond to reports of potential school violence.

Last year, START conducted interventions with 127 students. In the past week START has also received 63 referrals.

Since the deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, local law enforcement have intervened in credible threats of violence in schools in Santa Clarita, Whittier, Long Beach, Inglewood, Bellflower, Cerritos and Los Angeles.

“I have no doubt that START has saved lives,” said Supervisor Hahn. “But they are stretched thin. In a county of 10 million residents, we need more than 10 people working on this issue. We need to give them the resources they need to take every single threat seriously because our children’s lives are at stake.”

The above information was provided to The Signal via a press release and agenda item by the office of Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

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