Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $999,618)
Manchester, New Hampshire, is the largest city north of Boston and is home to the largest school district in New Hampshire. The city faces numerous challenges that range from homelessness, 50% of the student population living in poverty, the opioid epidemic, inadequate access to mental health care, and lax gun policy. The mix of issues creates many risk factors associated with mass violence (i.e., active shooters) and street violence (i.e., group/gang-related conflict). Additionally, the city has seen increased youth gun violence over the past several years, and incidents of violence inside city schools specifically have been climbing. The goal of this project is to reduce violence in schools through the development of multidisciplinary behavioral threat assessment and intervention teams, known as School Safety Teams. The teams will include school principals, social workers, mental health clinicians, guidance counselors, school resource officers, and other staff. Existing anonymous reporting mechanisms will collect concerns about threatening behavior, and School Safety Teams will triage cases and develop intervention plans. Through using behavioral risk assessments, School Safety Teams will be able to identify concerning behaviors early and offer evidence-based interventions to prevent violence from occurring. The program will use the Manchester School District’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B) for screening and referral processes for students in need, connecting students to school and community-based interventions, and monitoring intervention outcomes. The project seeks to use awarded funding to hire a School Safety Coordinator, who will help manage the entire process and focus on school safety day-to-day. The project will partner with the Behavioral Health Improvement Institute at Keene State College to ensure that evaluation and assessment will inform policy and practice adjustments. The Manchester School District and Manchester Police Department have a strong partnership, and their history of collaboration will ensure the success of this program.