“Right now, some preliminary data shows that one in three students need health care,” said ASPEN’s district coordinator.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. – Monday morning at Festus High School, classes were held.

However, the seats were not full of students. It was full of leaders trying to protect them.

The Jefferson County Safety Summit had many stakeholders from administrators to psychologists.

It is designed to educate and prepare for the upcoming year.

Sgt. Brian Rossomanno works with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Special Operations Division.

“We wanted to talk to them about what the response of the police would look like,” he said.

He said he is adding one additional staff member to the school, bringing the total to 10 SROs.

This week, he will have his shooting lessons. The important time after the assassination of Uvalde.

“In Uvalde, it was a mess,” Rossomanno said. “Things didn’t go the way they should, that’s understandable. We’re going to make some changes in our training to overcome those important points and make sure we drive home some points. If God didn’t allow this to happen in Jefferson County, you’re not going to see that kind of response from our deputies.”

Another difficult topic was psychological.

Jaclyn Brown is the ASPEN Coordinator at the Jefferson County Health Department.

“Right now, some preliminary data shows that one in three students needs mental health help,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s suicidal thoughts or other issues, but it shows that in Jefferson County there is a great need for good health.”

In 2015, the health department met with 40 stakeholders and learned that residents of Jefferson County were having trouble accessing resources.

In 2018, Mr. Brown shares, there was a significant increase in youth suicide in the community.

This is why they created ASPEN, which stands for Access to Essential Services.

It is a real platform for students to express themselves.

A waiver signed by a parent or guardian allows students to use this self-test.

When they are done, they alert the instructor.

“Students receive basic information about mental health issues, drug use and violent thoughts. When they are identified as being at low, moderate, or high risk, school counselors and legal counselors can connect them with additional resources,” he said.

It also gives counselors access to a wealth of data from information to dental health to food insecurity.

“It connects them with what students need through special filters like insurance, transportation needs, what’s on campus or 2,500 miles away,” Brown said.

This platform was created in 2021 and has already tested.

The plan is to release this next fall with the goal of having it in all Jefferson County schools.


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