Thompson: We must close mental health gaps | Opinion

1 month ago The Detroit News

Thompson: We must close mental health gaps | Opinion

I went to Lansing as a state representative to be an unwavering voice for families. That voice will be as strong as ever given the recent events at Michigan State University, where a shooter claimed the lives of three students, critically wounded five others and shattered senses of calm and safety for so many both on and off campus.

The three victims who lost their lives are a son and two daughters their respective families will never get back. It pains me to know the hurt, grief and loss they are going through. I lost my daughter in 2021 when she was just 24 years old. She was in a motorcycle accident involving a driver going roughly 120 miles per hour. It is utterly gut-wrenching to know that you will never hear your kid’s laugh or feel their embrace again, and my heart breaks for these families as they go through this horror.

I also have lost someone in my family to gun violence. When I was 15, my 16-year-old brother was shot in the back in a drive-by shooting and paralyzed. In 2018, when he was 32, he was shot 12 times inside of his car and murdered — unable to get out to safety while in a wheelchair.

In these instances, the motorcycle and gun weren’t to blame. The person making a reckless decision to drive at excessive speed and a deranged individual deciding to take the life of another were to blame.

With the violence we have witnessed at MSU, there’s going to be a lot of talk about what’s to blame as we continue to find out more – and people are going to turn to their elected leaders to act legislatively.

Part of these efforts must address the dire mental health needs for so many in this country so we can try to prevent this type of madness from occurring in the future. With a professional background as a nurse, I and many others know the struggles people across our state have every day with managing mental health and getting the adequate resources they need.

A new plan in the Legislature will improve school safety and address mental health gaps for young people. The bipartisan legislation establishes best practices for at-risk students and allows schools to better address behavioral, physical and mental health needs. It dedicates additional staff to student safety and mental health, promotes robust safety planning and expands confidential reporting ability so potential issues can be confronted.

These proposals were developed in the wake of the Oxford school tragedy in 2021. A bipartisan task force met with teachers, administrators, parents, law enforcement, mental health professionals and other experts to identify constructive steps that could help prevent acts of violence against students and teachers.

This was an instance in which many different ideas and backgrounds came to the table. Real solutions that legislators from both sides of the aisle put their names on came as a result. It can be done through hard work and effective collaboration, and I’m hopeful we can expand these recently proposed resources to include our institutions of higher learning and elsewhere to promote a safer society.

Tragedy has once again been brought to our collective doorstep. As we grieve today, I am hopeful we are proactive tomorrow in finding effective solutions that will work for Michigan families.

State Rep. Jamie Thompson, R-Brownstown, represents Michigan's 28th district.
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