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Bexar County approves funding for school mental health, gun safety programs after Robb Elementary shooting

Bexar County will launch a program addressing gun safety and expand mental health resources in schools following the shooting in Uvalde.

SAN ANTONIO — Bexar County says it wants to act at the local level following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary that left 19 students and 2 teachers dead.

On Tuesday, the county approved several different initiatives totaling $37 million, including $100,000 for providing gun locks and safety devices, $1 million in county education on safe gun ownership, $14.8 million on funding for mental health and violence prevention programs, and $21 million in funding for school-based mental health services.

The gun safety and education programs would be fully voluntary according to county commissioners.

“This was our attempt to do something now. The wait and see approach is unacceptable,” County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez said after the meeting.

According to background documents, county leaders acknowledged the “frustration and helplessness” parents will have sending their children back to school following the shooting.

Millions would be provided to the Department of Preventive Health and Environmental Services. 

According to a presentation from the county, its task force on criminal justice and behavioral health, the $14 million would go towards providing 16 inpatient beds for juveniles, expanding the adult crisis inpatient bed capacity to provide longer stays, creating a system to provide resource navigation and reduce the reliance on 911 operators.

Another item would include access to pre-crisis mental health services in the south, east and west sides of Bexar County.

The programs would be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, which is appropriate after the US Department of Treasury said violent crime and gun violence—which they say has increased during the pandemic—has posed a “significant public health challenge.”

The ARPA dollars will also fund the expansion of mental health services in local school districts including the expansion of student behavioral health in schools, to train counselors, and work with those counselors to identify additional needs.

County Commissioners including Rebeca Clay-Flores say the funding is a step in the right direction, but additional resources are needed.

She wants to work with the Southwest Texas Crisis Collaborative to identify non-profits to collaborate with school districts.

“We want to make sure our schools, we’ve got 17 different ISD’s in Bexar County, that kids have access to some kind of counseling services…The traditional counselor at the campus level is so overworked with proctoring exams and college selections that, often times kids need someone to talk to,” Commissioner Rodriguez told KENS 5.

According to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, all county deputies usually have two or three gun locks with them that any citizen can ask for. The county’s public information office will be working on the education program for safe gun ownership, but the court has additional priorities.

Last week, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott calling for a special legislative session to address gun violence following the mass shooting.

Some of Judge Wolff’s priorities included raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy semi-automatic weapons, red flag laws, background checks and allocating state funding for school security upgrades.

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