Texas Program Aims to Prevent School Shootings


As districts and administrators around the country seek to prevent mass shootings on campus, many are looking toward Texas.  A small program started in 2014 at Texas Tech University aims to identify and get help for troubled students before a tragedy occurs.  The program is called the TWITR Project (Telemedicine Wellness, Intervention, Triage and Referral Project.)  "The purpose of it is to identify youth who may have mental health issues that are potentially or imminently dangerous to themselves or others," says Dr. Billy Philips, Executive Vice President of Rural and Community Health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Philips tells KTRH certain factors in a student can lead to referral to licensed counselors and psychiatrists.  "They test for fear and anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, propensity for violent actions, impulsivity...those sorts of things," he says.  The next step is to get the student help for those conditions.  "We don't treat them...we screen them, and then we triage and refer them to the next level, where they can get treatment," says Philips.

Since its inception, the program has identified many troubled students, but Philips cautions that the number only represents a tiny percentage of the overall student population.  "We've screened 212 kids over the course of the project...of that number, 26 students have been removed from the school," he says.  Another 44 students screened in the program were placed in alternative school situations.

The TWITR Project encompasses 12 mostly rural school districts around Lubbock, covering about 33,000 students in junior and senior high school.  But since the school shooting massacre earlier this year in Parkland, Florida, Philips has received interest in the program from districts across the country.  "It's a very good program that could be replicated in other places to help people's lives be better," he says.


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