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Disability Rights Florida's Statement Regarding the Stoneman Douglas Tragedy

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The staff of Disability Rights Florida are heartbroken by the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas and our thoughts are with all the students and their families during this difficult time. The state protection and advocacy system's role is to educate and inform on issues impacting individuals with disabilities. Although we do not yet know all the facts about the teen who committed these acts, the information so far suggests that there were plenty of “warning signs” that this young man was troubled for years prior to the shooting. The information also suggests that there were multiple failures of a system that should have reached out and intervened in his life. Our response to what we witnessed on 2/14/2018 must go beyond condemning gun violence. It is critical that we engage and support troubled children before they turn to violence. Our state's inadequate focus on child welfare system supports, early intervention strategies, appropriate behavioral health in public education and sustainable mental health service systems brings us to a critical sense of urgency to review and reform these systems. This is not a discussion about spending or funding for behavioral/mental health services as that is only one small part of this complex system. Florida must invigorate its commitment to early intervention strategies across those systems that have the most interaction with our youth - child welfare, education, juvenile justice, law enforcement, as well as substance abuse and mental health services. As with many of the recent tragedies like this, we can identify the shooter, but there is no single answer as to why this happened. If we direct our focus on the issue of firearms alone, it will continue the fragmentation of supports and services throughout the system that led to this loss of incredible lives with their unlimited potential.

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mental illness,

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