On June 8, The Safe America Foundation announced a collaborative program called Humans Care, a wrap-around service for people who struggle with an opioid or other substance addiction, veterans who suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and to help put an end to the human trafficking in Georgia. I was invited to attend the press conference hosted by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Hiram) and Rep. Michael Smith (D-Marietta) at the Georgia Capitol in downtown Atlanta. After all of the work I’ve done in Henry County about mental health in schools, from getting the community to join together to bring attention to this epidemic, to bringing the issue to the attention of the county superintendent, I felt welcomed into a room full of people who want to break the stigmas of mental health, and who see the destruction of opioids on our families and communities and other issues in our communities. This experience showed me that people still care about others, despite the negativity in today’s world.
The invitation came after Theresa Yarbrough, from the Georgia Care Project, heard about a petition I started on change.org, following the horrific Parkland, Florida, shooting on Feb. 14, and she got me in contact with Stephen George from The Safe America Foundation. I wrote the petition as a response to people dropping the ball on intervening or providing mental health help for the shooter in Florida. With counselors, parents, police, and the FBI failing to respond to the situation right the first time, I realized mental health is a forgotten topic that needs to be addressed. I wrote an essay defending the idea of bringing more mental health awareness in schools as well as having more school counselors.
At Safe America Foundation’s press conference, I had the opportunity to listen to Rep. Rakestraw speak on the topic of mental health and talked with her after the event. She agreed not enough is done for mental health in schools and that a lot of problems stem from early childhood through adolescence.
I also got to speak with representatives of many organizations and offices, such as Dr. Joshua Murfree, chief operating officer of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority, and Rick Ornelas, director of operations at American Medical Response, and I got to hear their plans for the future of our communities. Safe America Foundation announced a new ambulance donation from American Medical Response, which will help them provide easy access to the new program’s services. This includes helping veterans with PTSD or any other issues that may prevent them from getting access to the VA or helping opioid epidemic victims get treatment, and many others.
Damion, 16, currently attends Locust Grove High School and The Academy for Advanced Studies. He is a mental health advocate who has pushed for more access to information about mental health in schools.
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