Bipartisan Michigan group to urge $100M+ in school safety, mental health programs

Task force to release full recommendations soon

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are expected to urge the state of Michigan spend more than $100 million on new mental health and safety programs for schools, according to a draft of recommendations obtained by Local 4.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are expected to urge the state of Michigan spend more than $100 million on new mental health and safety programs for schools, according to a draft of recommendations obtained by Local 4.

The draft, split into presentation slides, was created by the School Safety Task Force, which was formed in the wake of the school shooting at Oxford High School. The group has been working in the background for months, hammering out details and making compromises across the aisle in one of the most fraught election cycles in recent memory.

“I’m a Democrat and there are a few Republicans that I would absolutely just walk-through fire for them,” said Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) in an interview about the draft. “There’s 10 million people that live in Michigan. We shouldn’t be making this partisan. So, it’s for all of them.”

According to the draft, the state needs to find between $101 million and $184 million dollars with goals to fund up to eight new mental health and safety services for schools, including $10 million for school incidence mapping, $10 million for digital mental health screening, $20 million in incentives for mental health workers to work in schools and $52 million for 100 school based health care centers.

The task force is also proposing more than a dozen changes to state safety laws. Among those proposals, mandatory updates to school safety plans, better active shooter drills and improved training for school resource officers. They also want funding for two new positions in every school; a safety coordinator and a mental health coordinator.

Some of the proposals, like a capital needs assessment aimed at understanding just how much money schools have to work with and how much they would need exactly are already in the state’s budget. But the majority of the proposals would have to be added in a supplemental budget or next year’s budget all together.

The long list of spending would come as schools are struggling for funding and are in the midst of a major staffing shortage, meaning adding work to schools could be difficult, especially for rural or low-income districts. Breen said everything will be funded before it’s signed.

“We did make a huge budget increase for the per pupil funding. So that’s going to be one way to handle it. But we’re not going to mandate anything that’s not going to be funded.”

There are still some sticking points the task force hasn’t agreed on. Those mostly center around guns, gun control and guns in school. On the list, whether schools should send letters home encouraging safe gun storage or whether the state should even have laws about safe storage.

There have also been questions raised about whether gun-free zones should be ended, which would allow concealed weapons to be carried in schools. Programs like so-called “Guardian programs” that allow “highly trained individuals” like veterans or former law enforcement should have access to guns on school grounds or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, known as red flag laws, have all been discussed but not decided on.

In the end, the task force is being seen as a bipartisan success, with a lot of work left to be done.

“This isn’t that, take a look at it now make a few fixes and then let it go thing. This is an ongoing issue that we’re going to keep looking at what’s been effective, what has not been effective,” Breen said.

Breen also said there isn’t a specific timeline for the release of final recommendations although the task force is hoping to finalize the draft “soon.”

Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)
Keeping Michigan Schools Safe slides. (WDIV)

About the Author:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.