Turning to telemedicine to help prevent school shootings

Source: KCBD Video
Source: KCBD Video
Updated: Apr. 16, 2018 at 6:39 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Districts across the country are looking for ways to prevent active shooter situations. Now, some West Texas schools are turning to telemedicine to get students the help they need.

The Texas Tech University Science Center has created a new technology called TWITR to prevent school shootings from happening in West Texas.

TWITR stands for Telemedicine, Wellness, Intervention, Triage, and Referral. In West Texas, 12 districts use the program including Abernathy ISD, Brownfield ISD, Crosbyton ISD, Idalou ISD, Levelland ISD, Lubbock-Cooper ISD, Plainview ISD, Ralls ISD, Shallowater ISD, and Tahoka ISD.

"If we can find those kinds and engage in mental health services and get them treated," Dr. Billy Philip of TTUHSC said, "that's a better outcome then finding out we could have helped them after its too late."

The program has been around for the past three years, as administrators work to keep West Texas middle and high schoolers safe.

Out of 33,788 students, 209 students in West Texas schools have gone through the program. Through telemedicine, 29 students have been removed from school, 44 have been placed in alternative schooling, and the rest were referred to other specialists for violence and depression.

"It's a very small number, but it's a very significant number because if we just missed one then we could have the very incident we had in Parkland, for example, so while it's a small number its a very significant and important number."

Telemedicine works as a two-way video chat system to connect a student with a child psychiatrist from the Health Sciences Center within seconds.

Students are referred to this program by teachers, peers, and family members who are thought to be threats to themselves or others around them, all for the sake of getting students the help they need.

"The kids and the teachers like the program because it gives them something to do for their friends and associates and others who seem troubled," Dr. Philips said. "It provides treatment options to prevent an act of violence and everything that is preventative is a safety option."

He also adds that parents are also involved in this new program. When a student goes through this program, their parent is there every step of the way to understand what happens to their child.

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