East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania (September 10, 2013) – Through the Community Health Connections initiative, Pocono Medical Center (PMC) and Stroud Area Regional Police (SARP) leaders discussed the need for more behavioral health awareness and engagement in the schools. With this in mind, PMC and SARP consulted East Stroudsburg University Psychology professors Dr. Anthony Drago and Dr. Paul Bartoli. The recognition of this critical need led to the development of a program focused on developing recognition and interviewing patterns which would enable School Resource Officers (SROs) to identify behavioral health risks and initiate intervention by school counselors and/or administration as determined by school district policy.
The first training was held on August 13, 2013 at the Dale and Frances Hughes Cancer Center Serenity Conference Room with all four public school districts represented (East Stroudsburg, Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain, and Stroudsburg Area). Drs. Bartoli and Drago provided an opportunity for the 14 SROs to discuss their experiences and needs while also educating them on identifying child psychopathology basics, reviewing crisis intervention strategy, specifying immediate threat assessment strategies, discussing prevention, and identifying SRO and law enforcement challenges. The program received wonderful feedback from participants including, “All topics were perfect,”, “Very beneficial training”, “Thoroughly enjoyed this presentation,” and “Well presented, great atmosphere, currently topical subject matter.”
The SROs are involved in a variety of functions aimed at prevention and education. Besides being an active high profile law enforcement officer, the SRO is a resource for students, parents, teachers, and administration regarding legal issues. Another duty for the SRO is being a link to other service agencies which provide preventive and counseling services within the school district.
Dr. Drago, Chairman of the Psychology Department explained, “Our schools are certainly fortunate to have such dedicated professionals as their SROs. They know the students well and therefore, are able to anticipate and prevent many problems. This is the new version of ‘walking the beat.’ The SRO’s are a vital link in school safety.” Kathleen E. Kuck, President and CEO of Pocono Health System/Pocono Medical Center said, “It takes a village to raise our families and a community working together to see that our children are safe in school and that our families have adequate resources to assist in the journey that we all call life. I am so proud to serve such a caring and partner-oriented community.”
Dr. Bartoli, Professor in the Psychology Department further explained “Prevention strategies and round table discussions focusing on local challenges point the way toward future trainings in this critical area for our local community.” In the middle of this school year, the SROs will be re-surveyed to gauge the effectiveness of the training in helping prevent school violence as well as behavioral health issues. In addition, the team may look at taking the training program on the road to the teacher/counselor level at interested school districts.