Following a meeting of the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort last week, a number of Kentucky’s leading representatives in the state house answered questions regarding the safety of the commonwealth’s schools in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers (R) told reporters that, “We also need to understand the mental health component of all the things that took place,” in reference to the shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.

U.S. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, speaking at an event in London, KY said, regarding mass shootings in general, “And it seems to me there are two broad categories that underscore the problem: mental illness and school safety.”

Unfortunately, rural schools are more at risk for mass shootings.

According to a 2020 report from the Government Accountability Office, rural schools were the most likely to be targeted for shootings. 56% mass shootings at U.S. schools in the last 100 years have been in rural areas, though rural America now accounts for less than 20% of the nation’s population.

Heather Chapman of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues noted an ABC News report analyzing data by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that concluded 75% of rural counties in the country do not have a single mental health provider. The majority of the counties are located the Midwest and Southeast. 

Accessibility to mental health care in Trimble County

Trimble County does not have significant, physical medical infrastructure. There is a Norton King’s Daughters’ Health medical building in Milton and the First You Medical Center in Bedford. 

Perhaps one of the best options is Seven Counties Services, a community mental health center that serves Trimble, Jefferson, Oldham, Bullitt, Shelby, Spencer, and Henry counties. They have a physical, appointment-only address at 18 Alexander Avenue, Suite C in Bedford, according to their website. Additionally, they have remote-friendly telehealth and crisis hotline services.

The Trimble County CARES Coalition works to reduce substance abuse in the county, and Tri-County Community Action, which focuses on Henry, Oldham, and Trimble counties, also provides community support. The HOPE Community Center, located in Eminence, hosts Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. 

Otherwise, the main resources in the county are Trimble County Schools and the Trimble County Health Department.

School resources

Trimble County Schools has mentoring coordinators for at-risk students (with parental permission) thanks to mini grants from the Trimble County CARES Coalition through Ohio Valley United Charities and the Region 6 Kentucky Alcohol Substance Abuse Policy (ASAP). The Family Resource Center and the Youth Service Center for each school oversees the mentoring, which is done on school grounds, and the mentor gives weekly updates to the coordinator. Students who need additional services can be referred to outside providers through the Family Resource Center.

According to Superintendent Jessica Wilcoxson, these grants have been renewed for the 2022-2023 school year.

There are also students who meet with a licensed therapist at the school or over the video conferencing program Zoom. Seven Counties is one such source of therapists. Students who need emergency services are referred to The Brook, U of L Children’s Hospital, and Seven Counties Services.

The schools also have a peer-mentoring program called Sources of Strength where older students are matched with younger students, small group and individual counseling, a teacher mentorship program, and relevant classroom lessons.

The Community Health Education Team from the North Central District Health Department (NCDHD), which services Trimble County, has been compiling information for the schools under its jurisdiction. A bully/suicide work kit has been provided to every middle school, and more work is expected next school year, especially at the middle and elementary school levels. This initiative began at the end of last year.

Health Department resources

After graduation, however, mental health resources are more limited and rely more on personal initiative, though referrals may be made by general practice medical providers or law enforcement, especially in the case of substance abuse.

The NCDHD’s mental health support list only recommends the North King’s Daughters Health Milton office and First You Medical as far as physical locations in Trimble County. Otherwise, the recommended physical mental health services are mostly in Shelbyville, Eminence, Taylorsville, or Madison, Indiana.

There is also the Kentucky Online Adult Psychiatry, Inc., where you can make an appointment at www.clientsecure.me.

In case of emergency, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Text “Deserve” or “Hello” to 741-741 for access to the National Crisis Text-Line.