Recommendations to Prevent Gun-Related Violence

Improve and Expand School Violence Prevention Efforts

Utilize Threat Assessment Strategies
  • Encourage the formation of school threat assessment teams, including psychologists, to utilize research and clinical knowledge to identify those who pose a threat of violence and to refine the scientific bases on which threat assessments are made. Structured, evidence-based threat assessments constitute the state of the art in equipping schools to identify threats to safety and security. This can be accomplished in part by the Department of Education’s providing information and technical assistance on principles of effective threat assessment.
Implement Key Program Components
  • Implement evidence-based school violence prevention protocols, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports, that provide programs at three levels of intervention: 1) universal, school-wide interventions (e.g., bullying programs) and classroom-wide behavioral management and social-emotional learning programs implemented by teachers; 2) targeted interventions that are directed at children who are at high risk for violent behavior, typically delivered in small groups or individually to children and to their parents; and 3) intensive assessment and treatment for youth who are already engaged in serious violence.
Foster Positive and Safe School Climate
  • Enhance access to student mental health services and programs that reduce bullying, disruption and violence, including against teachers. These include: the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling program; positive behavioral interventions and supports; social-emotional learning programs; and restorative justice programs.
  • Increase funding for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which authorizes competitive grants for mental health services and suicide prevention initiatives at the state and tribal level and at colleges and universities, as well as supports a technical assistance center. There is a need for program flexibility in the use of funds to ensure that universities can best meet the needs of their students.
  • Enhance partnerships among schools, law enforcement, public health, welfare and community programs to improve coordination efforts to prevent violence through integrated, comprehensive and evidence-based approaches.
Facilitate Program Implementation Through Training and Research
  • Create ongoing training and networking opportunities among staff to address school safety procedures and staff stress management and problem-solving abilities, all of which affect student adjustment.
  • Ensure that school security or resource officers placed in schools are trained in adolescent development and are well-integrated into an overall school safety plan. Efforts that focus predominantly on security and punishment are ineffective, counterproductive and often unfair to poor and minority students. What works is reliance on evidence regarding best practices in school violence prevention.
  • Pursue research and policy initiatives to address barriers that interfere with the dissemination of evidence-based practices, including inadequate staff training, structural and procedural barriers as perceived by participants and staff (e.g., services are inconvenient or too demanding), and characteristics of the school or organizational environment (e.g., openness to innovations and optimal levels of professional autonomy permitted).

Make Communities Safer

  • Create community-based threat assessment processes to address a broad array of threats from within the community to work in coordination with school and workplace teams. The development and training of these teams or units could be initiated at the federal, state or local level under models previously used to provide school and campus threat assessment training. Training could even be sponsored by some corporate good citizens that are concerned about safety in their communities.
  • Institute a public health campaign to encourage help-seeking for people in distress. Family members and friends need to know where to go for help and that it is all right to seek mental health assistance for themselves or others. Public education is needed to distinguish “snitching” from seeking help. There is a need for a societal-cultural shift from looking the other way to lending a hand.

Enhance Access to Mental and Behavioral Health and Substance Use Services

Provide Broader Access to Health Care Under Medicaid
  • Render mental and behavioral health and substance use services offered by psychologists and social workers mandatory (rather than optional) services. 
Promote Integrated Health Care Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Ensure that CMS Innovation Center payment and delivery models fully integrate psychologists and other major providers of mental and behavioral health and substance use services with providers of physical health services.
  • Implement ACA integrated care initiatives, particularly the demonstration (in Section 3502) that provides grants to establish community-based interdisciplinary, inter-professional health teams to support primary care providers, including with regard to providing mental and behavioral health and substance use services.

Increase Federal Funding for Other Vital Service and Training Programs

  • Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program — GPE is a competitive grant program that supports APA-accredited doctoral, postdoctoral and internship programs to train psychologists to work with other health professionals in the provision of mental and behavioral health services to underserved populations, including children and victims of abuse and trauma.
  • National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) — SAMHSA's NCTSN raises the standard of care and improves access to services for children, families and communities impacted by traumatic events, including mass violence, physical and sexual abuse, natural disasters and sudden death of a loved one. SAMHSA is encouraged to increase the number of NCTSN grantees and maintain the collaborative model envisioned in the original authorization.
  • Violence Against Women Act — Enact a comprehensive reauthorization of this law and ensure adequate funding, with particular attention to provisions that strengthen the health care system’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Enhance Knowledge Base for Sound Public Policy on Violence Prevention

  • Facilitate research into the mental health and behavioral indicators of individuals who engaged in school violence incidents. These efforts will inform current best practices and serve as the foundation for guidance to mental health care providers when treating clients who exhibit such indicators.
  • Establish a science advisory blue ribbon panel — perhaps under the auspices of the OSTP’s Principal Advisor for SBE Sciences — to advise the Administration and help ensure existing scientific evidence is used to inform policy.
  • As a longer term response, fund a National Academies of Science (NAS) study to develop a 21st century research agenda, relevant to various federal agencies (e.g., NIH, FBI, CDC, NSF and DoJ) to inform gun violence prevention and intervention efforts. An updating of the NAS 2004 report, “Firearms and Violence,” to fill gaps in knowledge would be very helpful in this regard.