The report contains recommendations that cover SAFE SCHOOL DESIGN AND OPERATION, FIREARMS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT, and MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH.
Report by Paula Antolini
March 8, 2015 9:46AM EDT
“We would often hear people say, I can’t imagine what you’re going
through. I can’t imagine how hard it must be. I can’t imagine losing
your child. And while we appreciated the sentiment, the fact was
that they were imagining it. They were putting themselves into our
shoes, for at least a second. And as hard and as horrible as it
sounds, we need people to imagine what it is like. We need to
empathize with each other, to walk a mile in each other’s shoes.
Without that imagination, we’ll never change.”
–Jeremy Richman, father of Avielle Richman
Above image: This heart image and quote was included in the beginning of the Sandy Hook Commission’s report along with a list of victims names.
Two years ago a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary school and killed 20 young children and six adults, then committed suicide. Earlier he had killed his mother.
The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, a 16-member panel of experts, was created by Governor Malloy soon after, which included mental health experts, first responders, educators and political leaders. Their charge to review current policy and make specific recommendations in the areas of public safety, with particular attention paid to school safety, mental health, and gun violence prevention, recommendations all aimed at preventing another school massacre.
On Friday, March 6, 2015, after completing two years of work, the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission presented their 277-page final report to Governor Dannel P. Malloy, at 3:30 p.m. in the Legislative Office Building, Room 1A; Hartford. The report contained a vast amount information and 52 recommendations by the 16-member commission. (See commission member names below).
The meeting was lead by Scott Jackson, Mayor of the Town of Hamden and Chairman of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission. The session began with introductions by each commission member, then Jackson stated, “The parents who have testified before this commission have, throughout their testimony, asked us to keep the victims at the center of our analysis and process. As such, I will ask for a moment of silence in reflection upon the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school tragedy at the time.” There was then a moment of silence.
Jackson said it was hard to envision what the final report would look like but that it would likely contain controversial recommendations as well as universally agreed upon ones. He said the document was more of a “moral statement rather than an analytical review.” He said, “There have been more than 100 school shootings since the tragedy in Sandy Hook Elementary School. While the circumstances are different in each one of them, the facts are clear. Our schools should be sanctified places but they are not. Not when once a week shots ring out somewhere, in a school somewhere in our great nation. We must do something different, we must do something better. We can do something different and we can do something better.”
“We offer this report as a tribute to those lost and those families who continue to recover from their connection to this senseless tragedy,” Jackson said.
Commission members then spoke, giving thanks and praise to Chairman Jackson for his leadership and also thanking Governor Malloy for the chance to serve on the commission, and for allowing the importance of the various topics in the report to come to light.
Commission member Wayne Sandford (Professor, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, Univ. of new Haven) said, “I do think the elephant in the room is the cost of this document. There is no doubt that this document includes many many items that cost money and I don’t think it could come at a worse time, given the current situation in the state of Connecticut.” He continued, “It’s only a matter of time, at the way we are going, that there will be another shooting in Connecticut. We need to do whatever we can do to prevent those from happening.”
Governor Malloy said, “I think what’s important here, whether it was testimony from experts, or testimony of those whose lives have been shattered, was that we come up with a series of recommendations, a report, that would at least give communities, not just our Connecticut community, but communities in every state and every place some idea of what they could do to make a set of circumstances that played itself out here in Connecticut less likely to occur in their communities and certainly to make sure that in Connecticut we took whatever steps we reasonably could take to make sure that it didn’t happen.” Malloy continued, as he addressed his remark to the commission, “You’ve done this, you’ve risen to that occasion.”
“This is good work, this is positive work,” Malloy said, referring to the recommendations in the report.
Malloy said some of the commission’s recommendations have already been acted on, “We’ve already made 43 million dollars in rewards to approximately 1,000 schools in the state to strengthen their approach to keeping the children who attend those schools safe.” He said, “I think in light of the report there will be additional rounds, even state government has issued several forms of guidance, with respect to security in keeping in close touch with your preliminary findings and what you all were doing.”
Malloy said he thought the commission’s initial reports with respect to gun safety were very much relied upon with respect to the eventual legislation, and he said, “I think it has contributed to the welfare and the safety of the people in the state of Connecticut as a result of those changes and good work has been done.”
“On the mental health side, again, I don’t think anyone has been standing still and in difficult financial times we have made major investments in housing individuals with difficulties that need supervision.” He said in the present budget being proposed there was 13 million in year one additional case load and 17 million in year two for additional case load. “It is probable that we need to do more. I accept that obligation and I think Connecticut will rise to that occasion.”
Malloy went on to say, “The making of budgets and the decision of how to send money is never easy particularly in difficult times, but I can assure you that in our deliberations on the budget we kept your early work and your preliminary recommendations very much at heart and we’ll have to find ways to do additional work. I hear ya.”
“Be bold is I think a good admonition, and certainly not one that I’ve ever shied away from myself,” Malloy said.
The Sandy Hook Advisory Commission recommendations covered SAFE SCHOOL DESIGN AND OPERATION, FIREARMS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT, and MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH.
Regarding SAFE SCHOOL DESIGN AND OPERATION, some of the recommendations covered:
Recommendations Re: Models of Care
–That the Safe School Infrastructure Council Report (SSIC Report) include a standard requiring classroom and other safe-haven areas to have doors that can be locked from the inside.
–All exterior doors in K-12 schools be equipped with hardware capable of implementing a full perimeter lockdown.
–A feasibility study should be conducted to develop additional safety standards concerning the issuance of classroom keys to substitute teachers.
–School custodians should be included as members of school security and safety committees.
–Teachers, administrators and custodians should be appointed to school security and safety committees with the consent and approval of other employees of their same classification
–The Commission recommends that the State require each school district to create a permanent committee or commission, the purpose of which shall be to ensure SSDO standards and strategies are implemented in the district.
–The State should amend section 80 (a) of P.A. 13-3 to include an architect licensed in the State of Connecticut among the members of the School Safety Infrastructure Council.
–The State should amend section 80(b) of P.A. 13-3 as follows:
The School Safety Infrastructure Council shall develop school safety infrastructure standards for school building projects under chapter 173 of the general statutes and projects receiving reimbursement as part of the school security infrastructure competitive grant program, pursuant to section 84 of this act. Such school safety infrastructure standards shall conform to Connecticut and national industry best practice standards for school building safety infrastructure and shall include, but not be limited to, standards regarding (1) entryways to school buildings, classrooms and other space that can become areas of safe haven, such as, reinforcement of entryways, forced entry and/or ballistic rated glazing, solid core (FE and/or BR) doors, double door access, computer-controlled electronic locks, remotely controlled locks on all entrance and exits and buzzer systems, (2) the use of cameras throughout the school building and at all entrances and exits, including the use of closed- circuit television monitoring, (3) penetration resistant vestibules, and (4) other security infrastructure improvements and devices as they become industry standards. The council shall meet at least annually to review and update, if necessary, the school safety infrastructure standards and make such standards available to local and regional boards of education.
–Each school shall maintain an accurate list of faculty, staff and students, complete with emergency contact information, which shall include, but not be limited to, parents and guardians of students. This information shall be kept at two locations within each school known by appropriate school staff and the emergency response teams for that school.
–Each school shall provide safety and security training for faculty, staff and students on how to respond to hazards and or events in order to provide competent compliance with the All Hazards School Security and Safety Plan Standards. This training shall include live exercises to test the efficacy of the training program and to provide a means to develop that program as informed by these exercises. These training programs and exercises shall also include the identification and use of rendezvous points, escape routes, location of safe havens, the means of emergency communication and the role of faculty, staff, emergency responders, etc. These training and exercise programs may benefit from the participation of parents as part of post-event response and recovery operations as determined by each school and school district in accordance with their incident response plans.
–The Commission recommends that each school identify specific individuals to serve as safety and security wardens, who shall be responsible for executing and managing the safety and security strategies set forth in Recommendation No. 10.
–In the design of schools, the Commission recommends that classrooms and other spaces of denser population occupancy be located away from the points of building entry and that spaces of lesser occupancy be adjacent to school entry points, without giving up human visual surveillance and situational awareness of the entry points.
Regarding LAW ENFORCEMENT, some of the recommendations covered:
Interim Report Recommendations And Status
–Mandatory background checks on the sale or transfer of any firearm,
including long guns, at private and gun show sales
–Require registration, including a certificate of registration, for every
firearm. This certificate of registration should be issued subsequent to the completion of a background check and is separate and distinct from a permit to carry
–Require firearms permits to be renewed on a regular basis. This renewal process should include a test of firearms handling capacity as well as an understanding of applicable laws and regulations.
–Institute a ban on the sale, possession, or use of any magazine or
ammunition feeding device in excess of 10 rounds except for military and police use. In proposing this recommendation, the Commission recognized that certain sporting events at times involve the use of higher capacity magazines. However, the consensus of the Commission was that the spirit of sportsmanship can be maintained with lower capacity magazines.
–Institute a ban on the possession or sale of all armor-piercing and incendiary bullets, regardless of caliber. First-time offenses should be classified as a Class D Felony.
–Allow ammunition purchases only for registered firearms.
–Evaluate best practices for determining the regulation or prohibition of the sale and purchase of ammunition via the Internet.
–Evaluate the effectiveness of federal law in limiting the purchase of firearms via the Internet to only those individuals who have passed the appropriate background screening.
–Limit the amount of ammunition that can be purchased at any given time.
–Prohibit the possession, sale or transfer of any firearm capable of firing more than 10 rounds without reloading. This prohibition would extend to military-style firearms as well as handguns. Law enforcement and military would be exempt from this ban.
–Require that trigger locks must be provided at the time of sale or transfer of any firearm.
–Require that the state develop and update a ―best practices‖ manual and require that all firearms in a home be stored in a locked container and adhere to these best practices; with current minimum standards featuring a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety (including biometric) device when they are not under the owner’s direct control or supervision. The owner should also be directly responsible for securing any key used to gain access to the locked container.
–Require non-residents seeking to purchase a firearm or ammunition in the State of Connecticut to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility and conform to all other regulations applicable to Connecticut residents.
–Require gun clubs to report any negligent or reckless behavior with a firearm, or illegal possession of any firearm or magazine, to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Commissioner of Public Safety, and local law enforcement.
–Requiring promoters of gun shows to receive a permit from the Chief of Police or Chief Elected Official as well as provide notice to the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Final Report Additional Recommendations
–Require that any shell casing for ammunition sold or possessed in Connecticut have a serial number laser etched on it for tracing purposes.
–Any person seeking a license to sell, purchase or carry any type of firearm in the state should be required to pass a suitability screening process.
–To allow, at a judge’s discretion, the opportunity to temporarily remove any firearms, ammunition, and carry permits from a person who is the subject of an ex parte restraining order, civil protection order or family violence protective order, at the time of the issuance of that order.
–Grant state-wide peace officer status to all sworn law enforcement officers in Connecticut to assure their ability to respond to any other jurisdiction within the state in the event of a major police emergency, but only at the express invitation of the requesting jurisdiction. Self-dispatch by public safety or EMS resources should be prohibited to prevent over-response.
–Provide funding for the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, to establish positions for regional School Safety Planners charged with assisting districts in the planning for all hazards emergencies and the effective exercising of those plans.
–Develop regional multi-jurisdictional, multi-discipline, Unified Command concept of operations, integrating local and state police, for major events of great consequence. These plans should include administrative staff of local schools or other entities to assure best information is available.
–Establish statewide and/or regional Incident Management Teams for public safety personnel.
–Integrate Public Safety Dispatch centers, with minimum staffing levels, into all major event response plans.
–Require that lead agencies that respond to major events conduct a review and provide formal after-action reports, which should be maintained on file with the appropriate public agencies. (In Connecticut, the Commission recommends that a copy of each after-action report should be provided to, and maintained on file by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.)
–Require the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Division of State Police, in conjunction with the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, to develop and conduct joint regional exercises of planned responses to major events. Those agencies should also review all existing policies concerning planned responses to active shooters. The review should focus on the best practices for disrupting active shooters as rapidly as possible.
–Expand incident training at Police and Fire Academies in Connecticut.
–Create a statewide working group to address first responder mental health issues.
–Create and publish a Statewide Donations Management Plan for incidents of statewide consequence. This could be done through Connecticut Care, which was established by P.A. 13-275.
–Programs should be developed that focus on violence reduction through the educational process or other entities.
–Alcohol awareness programs should be included at appropriate points in the K-12 curriculum
Regarding MENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH, some of the recommendations covered:
Recommendations Re: Models of Care
–Recognizing that mental health is more than the absence of mental illness, we must build systems of care that go beyond treating mental illness to foster healthy individuals, families and communities and embrace overall psychological, emotional and social well-being.
–To promote true wellness, Connecticut must build a mental health system that targets detection and treatment while building stronger, resilient communities of care.
–Addressing a fragmented and underfunded behavioral health system tainted by stigma requires building a comprehensive, integrated approach to care. The approach will stress family involvement and community resilience. Care will be holistic and involve pediatric and adult medical homes from birth to adulthood, with efforts to ensure continuity of care. Identifying risk factors, reinforcing protective factors, and promoting positive development throughout will be key goals, and peer as well as professional support will be involved. Treatment and prevention will be stressed.
–To treat the whole person and cultivate wellness across the population, our health delivery systems and reimbursement paradigms should embrace a biopsychosocial model that understands the individual‘s physical and mental health strengths and challenges in the context of that person‘s social environment and relationships.
–Providers should be incentivized through reimbursement mechanisms to integrate both physical and mental health services, whether through their own care delivery or through integration of services within a medical home model.
–To promote healthy child development and foster robust communities, our systems of care must attend to the factors affecting family welfare. Current funding structures must thus be revamped. The Commission recommends support for models of integrated care driven by family needs in which all providers focus on family strength, address their risk factors, and accept the family as a partner in treatment.
–Schools must play a critical role in fostering healthy child development and healthy communities. Healthy social development can be conveyed by role models such as parents, teachers, community leaders, and other adults in children‘s lives, but it can also – and should – be actively taught in schools.
–Social-emotional learning must form an integral part of the curriculum from preschool through high school. Social-emotional learning can help children identify and name feelings such as frustration, anger and loneliness that potentially contribute to disruptive and self-destructive behavior. It can also teach children how to employ social problem-solving skills to manage difficult emotional and potentially conflictual situations.
–A sequenced social development curriculum must include anti- bullying strategies. As appropriate, it should also include alcohol and drug awareness as part of a broader substance-abuse prevention curriculum for school-aged children.
–Many of our students and their families live under persistent and pervasive stress that interferes with learning and complicates the educational process. There are many potential resources such as school based health centers that should provide a locus of preventive care, including screenings and referrals for developmental and behavioral difficulties, exposure to toxic stress, and other risk factors, as well as treatment offerings that can address crisis, grief and other stressors. Alternatively, schools can employ the services of community-based mental health providers such as child guidance clinics.
–Schools should form multidisciplinary risk-assessment teams that gather information on and respond supportively to children who may pose a risk to others or face a risk to themselves due to toxic stress, trauma, social isolation or other factors.
–Schools should work with all providers to enhance community resources and augment services available in schools.
–The state and federal departments of education should establish lead sections or programs on school mental health to supplement (not replace) the work of CT DCF.
–The Commission endorses the recommendations advanced in Connecticut Children‘s Behavioral Health Plan, a report and implementation plan compiled pursuant to Connecticut‘s Public Act 13-178, that call for a comprehensive, developmentally appropriate continuum of care that expands and equalizes culturally relevant resources available to children and their families across payment systems and geographic boundaries.
–Each board of education must ensure that children with disabilities be identified and evaluated in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA.
–When the particular disabilities that necessitate homebound education include social, emotional and behavioral difficulties, the student‘s individualized education program and related services must address these difficulties expressly in addition to providing any necessary academic supports.
Recommendations Concerning Barriers To Access: Insurance And Funding Issues.
–A fully functional mental health system will require better coordination and access to a broad range of necessary services across payment systems.
–Inadequate reimbursement rates combined with high utilization rates at many outpatient behavioral health clinics have made this model of care financially unsustainable. In addition, overall Medicaid rates for adult inpatient care have not increased in at least eight years. Recent increases in rates for inpatient child and adolescent care have been coupled with decreases in other Medicaid reimbursement rates to the same hospitals. The Commission recommends that higher reimbursement rates in both outpatient and inpatient settings, which better reflect the costs of care, be a core component of a redesigned behavioral health care system.
–Inadequate reimbursement rates have also impacted the behavioral health workforce, which remains insufficient to meet the needs of many Connecticut residents. The Commission recommends that, in addition to addressing reimbursement rates, Connecticut identify and take measures to increase the behavioral health workforce. These might include educational incentives such as loan forgiveness programs.
–Connecticut has significant problems with system fragmentation resulting from diverse payment systems and a lack of coordination or consistency among state agencies. A fragmented system yields unequal access to effective treatment, discontinuities of care for those receiving service, and unsustainable financial burdens for individuals, families and communities.
–The definition of “care” must be reviewed. Funding decisions about behavioral health “care” must look beyond the model that has prevailed over the past several decades to embrace psychosocial interventions, services directed toward the achievement of functional skills and other efforts to engage the whole person, which frequently offer the best prognosis for recovery. A behavioral health diagnosis accompanied by acute, rather than chronic, symptoms should be removed as a prerequisite for access to care.
–Commercial insurance should cover the full panoply of services available through the public behavioral health system, e.g., programs that provide housing, vocational and occupational support, and drop-in services that can be essential components of an effective treatment strategy for individuals struggling with severe mental illness. The Commission recommends continuing efforts to expand coverage to a broad range of evidence-supported services for individuals with private insurance.
–Since the goal of optimal health care is to integrate behavioral health seamlessly into comprehensive care, continued use of behavioral health carve-outs, designed to control behavioral health costs rather than increase access, should be phased out as quickly as possible. The Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership is noteworthy in designing incentives to coordinated care across physical and mental health as well as substance abuse.
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Members of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission
Scott Jackson (Chair): Mayor, Town of Hamden
Dr. Adrienne Bentman: Director, Adult Psychiatry Residency Program, Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living
Ron Chivinski: Teacher, Newtown Middle School
Robert Ducibella: Founding Principal, DVS Security Consulting and Engineering
Terry Edelstein: Nonprofit Liaison to Governor Malloy
Kathleen Flaherty: Staff Attorney, Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut, Inc. / Facilitator and State Trainer, National Alliance for Mental Illness in Connecticut
Dr. Alice M. Forrester: Executive Director, Clifford W. Beers Guidance Clinic, Inc.
Dr. Ezra Griffith: Professor Emeritus of and Senior Research Scientist in Psychiatry, Deputy Chair for Diversity and Organizational Ethics, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University
Patricia Keavney-Maruca: Member, State Board of Education / Former technical high school teacher
Christopher Lyddy: Program Manager, Trainer & Consultant, Advanced Trauma Solutions, Inc. / Former State Representative, 106th Assembly District of Newtown / Former Program Director, Youth Equipped for Success!, Forensic Health Services, Inc. / Former Clinical Supervisor, Juvenile Risk Reduction Center, Community Solutions, Inc.
Denis McCarthy: Fire Chief, City of Norwalk
Barbara O’Connor: Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, University of Connecticut
Wayne Sandford: Professor, University of New Haven, Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice & Forensic Sciences / Former Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security / Former Fire Chief, Town of East Haven
Dr. David J. Schonfeld: Pediatrician-in-Chief, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children / Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Drexel University College of Medicine / Director, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement
Dr. Harold I. Schwartz: Psychiatrist-in-Chief, Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living / Vice President, Behavioral Health, Hartford Hospital / Professor of Psychiatry, University of Connecticut School of Medicine
Bernard R. Sullivan: Former Chief of Police, City of Hartford / Former Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Safety / Former Chief of Staff to House Speaker Tom Ritter