Nevada County mayors breakfast focuses on preventing mass violent event | TheUnion.com

Nevada County mayors breakfast focuses on preventing mass violent event

Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard explains threat assessment during a discussion on preventing a mass violent event at Thursday's Breakfast with the Mayors.

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, and the walkouts by students to end gun violence, communities around the nation have been struggling to be more proactive in finding solutions.

Nevada County is no exception. Several weeks ago, a town hall forum focused on gun safety from a variety of perspectives, and on Thursday the annual Breakfast with the Mayors highlighted how to keep our schools, churches and community at large safe from a potential mass violent event.

This year, a panel was formed ahead of time to interview stakeholders including local law enforcement officials and county behavioral health staff, research solutions and issue recommendations.

The panel examined threat assessment, appropriate interventions, changing the culture of the community, and removing privacy restrictions for interagency information-sharing.

"Someone needs to run with this," said retired crisis planner Dave Kapler, while presenting the panel's recommendations. "We can make this real."

Kapler said the county needs to form a threat assessment smart team, made up of personnel from local government agencies, that will focus on those with the potential to carry out a mass violent event.

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An emphatic prevention smart team would also be created that would focus on the larger majority of troubled or socially dysfunctional persons. One major failure in preventing incidents, the panel found, is a lack of follow-through in treatment or other compassionate intervention.

This team would receive referrals from the threat assessment team and would implement treatment where appropriate. It would also be responsible for long-term follow-up. The team would partner with local service organizations that already provide compassionate intervention, like Anew Day and Community Beyond Violence.

The panel also recommended working on implementing a culture of care in the community at large.

The last recommendation focused on reducing legal barriers to sharing safety-related information, arguing the right to privacy was not meant to protect those planning harm to others. Local governments were urged to question and possibly challenge privacy laws "with the intent of carving out exceptions when sharing of personal information is vital to protect the community and its citizens from imminent harm."

Several of those involved in the discussions spoke at the event, including Grass Valley Police Chief Alex Gammelgard, school safety climate coordinator Chris Espedal, and Nicole Ebrahimi-Nuyken of Behavioral Health.

Gammelgard discussed threat assessment, noting it is important for community members to report suspects "red flags" but that there has to be a relationship of trust with law enforcement and other government entities.

Ebrahimi-Nuyken pointed to a "wide array" of mental health services available in the county. In particular, she highlighted the county's crisis stabilization unit and its assisted outpatient treatment for individuals identified through Laura's Law — named after Laura Wilcox, one of three people killed by an untreated mentally ill man in Nevada County on Jan. 10, 2001. Laura's Law provides a mechanism for getting mentally ill, non-compliant individuals into treatment.

Several local students discussed programs at their schools that focus on fostering empathy.

Pine Hills Adventist Academy student Dayton Roderick cited a project he helped start that involves writing letters to those who seem like they are struggling, adding, "You don't have to do something big to have a big impact."

Bear River High School junior Marie-Claire Desplancke talked about Team Core, which highlights core values including grit, integrity, intellectual curiosity and empathy — the quality she said was most important in building a better school community.

"Be somebody who makes somebody feel like somebody," she said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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