To the editor:
The April 24 Journal-World editorial discusses a conundrum frequently faced by mental health professionals, families and law enforcement: loss of an individual's civil rights for something that might happen. The tragedy at Virginia Tech forces our attention on this problem.
When I was in college, we studied the system of "prophylactic justice" practiced in the Soviet Union and were thankful for the rights guaranteed in our Constitution. How we balance public safety with cherished rights seems an impossible question. What then is to be done?
There are other preventative measures that can have a much greater impact. The Douglas County community has embraced the Bert Nash WRAP program, which places mental health clinicians in our schools. While the importance of school-based mental health programs is well known, less than 10 percent of our nation's schools have school-based programs. WRAP has successfully intervened in what would have been tragic events.
At least as important, WRAP provides early prevention through identifying children who are in trouble and providing services to them and their families. More than 3,000 school children receive services through WRAP every year. Bert Nash also provides staff at Lawrence schools therapeutic classrooms, Success by 6 and the Juvenile Detention Center, as well as a variety of direct services for children and their families.
As individual residents, we can reach out to the child who feels bullied, engage the child who appears isolated, encourage the child who seems to have lost hope and never be afraid to get professional assistance.
David E. Johnson, CEO, Bert Nash
Community Mental Health Center