Three Steps to "PREPaREdness:" One District's Response to Crisis Intervention
Mingo, Tiffany, Deeds, Sheryl, National Association of School Psychologists. Communique
Contributing Editor's Note: In this column, members of the PREPaRE workgroup and workshop trainers from across the country bring to you descriptions of how various elements of the PREPARE curriculum are currently being implemented in local schools and agencies. In this first column, we offer an illustration of how the first element of the curriculum ("P" or Prevent and Prepare) is currently being addressed within the Palm Springs Unified School District (Palm Springs, CA). If any Communiqué reader has an interest in writing a similar article on how they are currently using the PREPARE curriculum within their local school district(s), please contact me at email@example.com. -Stephen E. Brock, PhD, NCSP
Historically, the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) has made it a priority to provide preventive services to students and their families. It was this priority that motivated the district's administration to pursue additional training in crisis prevention and response. It was, and is, our belief that the preventive model offered by the PREPaRE curriculum not only supports this priority, but also furthers our understanding of what we can do to prepare for school crisis situations. The "P" (Prevent and Prepare) element of the PREPaRE acronym substantiates our efforts, and has guided and directed our goals to train all PSUSD schools in this model.
Schools prevent, prepare for, and respond to crisis situations every day. For example, we believe that we do so by offering after-school programs, after-school and weekend tutoring, and intervention classes to support student learning. Consistent with the guidance offered by PREPaRE, we offer social skills training and have onsite counseling services available to our students and their families. The district also contracts with outside agencies to provide additional counseling and family services. We have made a concerted effort to ensure that our students and their families receive the support needed to promote their emotional and physical health, making them more resilient and less vulnerable to crisis events. However, we recognize that even given our best efforts at prevention, crises are It was in the midst of responding to multiple crises that we recognized our continued need to prevent and prepare for future crisis events. The first step in this regard was to update our district's crisis response procedures and the roles of our crisis response and recovery team.
The origins of our efforts to PREPaRE. In the 2007-2008 school year, our high schools responded to three suicide completions, as well as at least 10 additional psychiatric hospitalizations as a suit of suicide attempts. This dramatically increased the suicidal ideation and ior of our high school population. It is estimated that upwards of 200 suicide risk assessments were conducted that school year. This suicide cluster revealed the need for increased preparedness and the fact that district protocols needed to be updated.
Beginning to PREPaRE. As our district looked for direction, we realized our existing response methods and procedures had not been updated to reflect the most current empirically informed methods of crisis response. For example, we judged it imperative that our district develop and train a school district crisis response and recovery team that made use of the National Incident Management System's Incident Command Structure (ICS; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2004). Our crisis response and recovery team, made up of child welfare and attendance workers (CWA) and school psychologists, sought out direction in developing such a school crisis response protocol. NASP's PREPaRE was the only research-informed program/curriculum available written by and for school-based professionals that incorporated ICS into its response procedures. With PSUSD's adoption of the PREPaRE and ICS models, we now use the same crisis response structure as all emergency response agencies (police, fire, Red Cross, etc. …