District and Local Police Agencies Launch "Handle With Care"

"Handle With Care" logo

Bullitt County Public Schools announced a partnership with HPD, MWPD, and SPD to launch the “Handle With Care” program to support children facing trauma.

“Handle With Care” enables police and other first responder agencies to notify schools if they encounter a child at a traumatic scene, so schools and mental healthcare leaders can provide trauma-sensitive support right away.

In September, all police agencies and other stakeholders (such as emergency management and dispatch) met to learn about and discuss the program. Since then, they have established a notification system and joined over 65 other U.S. cities that have started their own Handle With Care program.

Mt. Washington Police Chief Troy Pitcock noted communication, or the lack thereof, is always the downfall of everything.

“The BCPS Handle With Care Program helps enhance communication between law enforcement and our school community,” he said. “Our youth is our most valuable commodity and this program is an opportunity to provide resources that meet the needs of our children when they have been involved in a traumatic event.”

Pitcock added that most times, a school system doesn’t learn until days or weeks after these events; many times they never learn a child has been exposed to something that can leave such an emotional scar.

"This information sharing will benefit our children,” Pitcock affirmed.

District Director of Safe and Drug-Free Schools Sarah Smith said, “We are excited to work with such great partners on a program that will help students achieve at their highest levels despite whatever traumatic circumstances they may have endured. We have a great relationship with our first responders in Bullitt County and this will continue to strengthen the bond and trust between our community and schools.”

Handle With Care has three components:

  1. The first responder agency will send a notification to the school designee when they encounter a child at a traumatic scene. Police don’t send incident details to schools, just three words: “Handle With Care.”
  2. School administrators will distribute the notification to the appropriate teacher and/or counselor so they can monitor the student’s behavior and determine what trauma-sensitive support the child may need at school, such as reteaching lessons, giving more time on tests, sending the student to the nurse’s office to sleep, or sending the student to the counselor.
  3. If needed, the counselor will make a referral to a mental health professional or school-level counselor, who will coordinate with the parents/caretakers and the school to provide therapy on-site.

The local effort was supported by the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice which began “Handle With Care” in 2013.

Additionally, resources were made available through Salud America! Action Pack, which provides free template materials, resources, and technical assistance.

To get involved in Bullitt County’s “Handle With Care” program, or to know more about the program, please contact Sarah Smith at (502) 869-8000 or by email sarah.smith@bullitt.kyschools.us.

About “Handle With Care”

In 2011, the West Virginia Children’s Justice Task Force, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the South District of West Virginia, formed a subcommittee to explore the problem of children’s exposure to trauma and violence and programing to mitigate the negative effects of trauma. They developed “Handle With Care”, and in 2013, piloted the program in one elementary school. Since then, over 65 cities across the country have implemented the program.

About Salud America!

Salud America! is a national Latino-focused organization that creates culturally relevant and research-based stories, videos, and tools to inspire people to start and support healthy changes to policies, systems, and environments where Latino children and families can equitably live, learn, work, and play. Latinos are a rising U.S. powerhouse, but they face barriers to be their healthiest and suffer high rates of obesity and other health disparities. Salud America! and its award-winning multimedia communications help our social and online network—more than 250,000 moms and dads, providers, researchers, and community and school leaders—push for healthy changes in schools and communities to build health equity for Latino and all kids. Salud America! is led by health disparities researcher Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez and supported by a passionate team of communicators at UT Health San Antonio, thanks to funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others.

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