After the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida communities were reeling with responses from friends and families of victims, educators, 2nd amendment enthusiasts, social service providers and the Legislature. The plethora of emotion that sprang from the nation was electric. Just as students prepared to take the Capital and meet with senators and representatives , the Florida Network member agencies were preparing to do the same. At the bi-annual EAR meeting, executives were faced with a similar question many individuals faced around the state; What now?
Discussion flowed freely as we explored potential changes to the existing system as well as improvements that could enhance the prevention work so many in the room have devoted their lives to. There was also much strategizing regarding solutions that would improve the quality of mental health services provided to one of the most vulnerable populations, youth. Tele Psychiatry, elevated Multi – Disciplinary Teams, Hotline implementation and increased long term in-home services were just a few mentioned. Even with evaluating potential change s there was an even greater discussion around the existing practices that are making a difference in homes and schools like SNAP, in home counseling, partnerships with mental health providers, Intensive Case Management Services, and truancy programs. The discussion was evidence that even in the best systems there is room for progress.
Even with the flow of solutions there was still a subtle unease present in the room. That emotion was best articulated by a hard truth spoken by Boystown Central Florida Executive Director, Greg Zbylut, “It can happen”. The reality we know is although it can happen anywhere, it does not cause our passion and dedication for prevention work to waver or diminish. As the day came to a close the Florida Network legislative team’s message to the executive directors was to continue their work, share their story and remember that prevention matters.