Gov. Abbott to consider Lubbock-area program for preventing school violence

Gov. Abbott to consider Lubbock-area program for preventing school violence

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Three roundtable discussions are planned for this week by Governor Abbott to talk about ways to prevent violence in schools.

One of the topics on the agenda is mental health solutions. This includes consideration of a program that started right here in the Hub City to help prevent school shootings in West Texas, the TWITR Project.

TWITR stands for Telemedicine, Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral.

The TWITR Project started back in 2014 with a grant to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Since then it has been used in schools across the South Plains. The goal of the project is to get kids the mental health treatment they need.

"TWITR is one of the strongest tools we have in place in our district and tomorrow it may be even better," Assistant Superintendent at Shallowater ISD Mary Hughes said. "They may continue to improve upon it...you have to get out ahead of the situation when you notice anything off with the mental health of a child."

The TWITR Project is being used across the South Plains, affecting nearly 41,807 students in 12 school districts including Abernathy ISD, Crosbyton ISD, Frenship ISD, Idalou ISD, Levelland ISD, Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Plainview ISD, Ralls ISD, Roosevelt ISD, Tahoka ISD, and Shallowater ISD.

"Different things impact [the students] besides am I going to pass my history test tomorrow," Hughes said. "We wanted to make sure that we were all trained and aware on what to look for if we felt like any students stubbed their toes; we want to know what to do about it."

According to data provided by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, there have been 64 active school shootings in the US since 2013.

"It makes me sad in a way that we had this type of program available in 2014 and we have not pushed it out to everyone from the very beginning," Hughes said. "This isn't a school problem, it's a society problem. We need to make this type of thing available."

Now the TWITR Project is getting recognition because of its results. Since its startup in 2014, 215 students have been triaged using telemedicine, 25 students were removed from school, 44 placed in alternative schooling, 38 students sent to an emergency room or inpatient hospital, 94 students were referred for anger/violence, 65 for suicidal ideas and/or self harm, 36 for depression, and 57 students for other reasons.

"We can sit down and have the parents come up with the student, sit down and have a laptop conversation with a physician that is trained in that area at that point in time," she said. "The physician can then say this is what we need to do and they can even give a prescription."

Tuesday was just one of the three roundtables planned by Governor Abbot. Two additional round tables are planned for Wednesday and Thursday to talk about gun regulations and mental health solutions.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Doctor Billy Philips is expected to be in attendance to talk about the TWITR Project.

To learn more about the TWITR Project, click here.

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