EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University and a national school safety nonprofit organization, Safe and Sound Schools, recently launched an project designed to prevent gun violence by addressing mental health issues.
Prevent 2 Protect: The Adolescent Targeted Violence Prevention Project is something that has been years in the making to answer a question that has been asked for years as well.
“And the question was, 'How do we stop attacks from happening in our schools,'" said Dr. Alyse Ley, the project's co-founder and associate chair of education and research in MSU's Department of Psychiatry.
A team of school safety experts from MSU and Safe and Sound Schools are working together to explore the possibilities of how exactly to avert these acts of mass violence.
"And over the years, we developed a model to do that, to really prevent these attacks from occurring by intervening before they occur," said Ley.
Through combined research, Dr. Ley and Dr. Frank Straub, co-founder and senior director of violence protection for Safe and Sound Schools, are using one key point as the project’s platform.
“If we intervene early, we can really fill the gaps where these kids fall,” Ley said.
To further that point, Prevent 2 Protect has an established plan in place of exactly how they are going to intervene.
"It is our hope that we will be able to intervene by having a hub of expertise at MSU in conjunction with Safe and Sound Schools and then placing regional teams in five regions throughout the state of Michigan," Ley said.
The responsibility of those regional teams is to help high-risk individuals access care and resources in their community.
“Each regional team will have a case manager, a social worker and then a mentor," said Straub.
The idea behind the mentor ship is to provide the high-risk adolescent with a constant in their life to help them create a positive trajectory for their future.
The project is also aiming to combine forces to implement resources in each community.
“If a community provides services, whether is it mental health services, educational services or employment services, then, there is this team that works with this individual and their family for whatever period of time it takes. We have the ability to change life trajectories,” stated Straub.
Not only is the project working to connect the community to the individual, but it also is striving to connect that individual to a sense of community.
“Oftentimes these individuals who are high risk and high need do not belong to a community or do not feel part of their community. And, even if they are in a town, they don’t feel like they are adding to the community. They’re not competent in any way, so they are not really part of a group, even though that’s what they are looking for,” said Ley.
With these community connections, the project is hoping to replace the desire to commit violence, with a solid sense of purpose and belonging.
“What we hope to do is provide a positive community, provide a positive adult in their life, provide a sense of competence within that community,” Ley said.
In the long term, Prevent 2 Protect has hopes to develop a solid model that will eventually expand and evolve its reach nationally.