There is nothing good to say — or write — about tragedy, but horrifying events often lead to significant change or significant new development. The senseless shooting deaths of so many young Virginia Tech college students and teachers last week is indeed a loss and a tragedy for this nation. The points to consider here, however, are proactive.
First, the long fight by mental health professionals to provide equity in the benefit of providing services alongside physical health benefits must be a focus for change. Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services leaders in Grand Rapids have for more than a decade made their testimony available to the legislature and to the industry. Their concerns have been borne out by statistics from the Kent County jail to the federal prison system: Studies have shown that more than 25 percent of the jail/prison population suffers from mental illness. Providing treatment is far less costly than the continued and likely never-ending room and board costs in county and state jails and prisons.
The mental illness that perhaps most often impacts employers is the debilitating illness of depression. Again, treatment is far less costly than the sick days and productivity losses accrued by business owners, or the revenue loss to individuals suffering depression and their potential loss of employment. Grand Rapids has seen such loss described in headlines many times over the past several years.
Grand Rapids Business Journal admonishes benefits providers and legislators to renew the discussion using the professional expertise of those who have for so long called for action.
Second, it is especially interesting to note that Michigan Homeland Security Consortium Chairman Keith Brophy very recently presented Consortium expertise to the School and University Security Symposium in Kalamazoo. Brophy’s firm, NuSoft Solutions, has launched Guard Dog Technology, a multi-platform emergency alert system. Symposium attendees were rather uninterested in the Web-based alerts through text message, e-mail, phone and fax — until last week. As Brophy observed in the story on Page 3: “What we want to do through the consortium is drive fluid, steady progress. We don’t want to spurt a reaction to a catastrophe.”
Another of Brophy’s comments is salient to both issues identified here: “We think the market today is ready to be proactive in spending and adopting these various strategies.”
The tragedy of last week is not only the story of the perpetrator or his randomly murdered victims; the tragedy of last week is the inaction and ignorance of the wider community in actions of prevention.