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Posted April 14, 2010

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APS, Law, Probation, Mental Health Officials Discuss Collaborations

Albuquerque Public Schools officials and representatives from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the Bernalillo County Youth Service Center and the Bernalillo County Mental Health Collaborative today spoke at a press conference on how they can cooperate to reduce youth violence.

Working together as part of the federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative, officials said that this represents the first time they have joined together in a meaningful way to address the causes of youth violence.

“We are working together and working differently to prevent youth violence,” said Diego Gallegos, APS assistant superintendent, noting that services for students have to begin with early childhood education to address problems that can eventually lead to youth violence.

Tom Swisstack, director of the Bernalillo County Youth Service Center, said that he was eager to join with schools, mental health professionals and law enforcement officers to make sure that young people do not end up in the juvenile justice system.

“We are taking a serious look at how we can all work together and at how we can make the services we offer work better,” Swisstack said.

Lynn Pedraza, director of the APS Health and Wellness Department, said that schools, community mental health providers and law enforcement officials have been working together for many years.

“If we reach out to our families early, children will be more likely to start school more socially and emotionally prepared to learn and more likely not to be involved with truancy and crime,” Pedraza said.

All this week law enforcement officers from APS, Albuquerque Police and Bernalillo County are receiving training in how to mediate problems with students so that they do not escalate into more serious problems or violence.

On Thursday, APS will host the Albuquerque Community Early Childhood Services Network Summit in an effort to bring service providers together do discuss how they can integrate and provide more cohesive services to children.

Friday, APS hosts the Juvenile Justice & Mental Health Collaboration Summit to bring together agencies that provide those sorts of services together to work out a plan to deliver those services more effectively.

May Sagbakken, manager of the four-year, $9 million Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant for APS, said the training and summits are sponsored by the grant in order to bring participants together to begin working more closely on providing effective services to the community.

“Our main goal is to make people aware of the services offered and to integrate services,” Sagbakken said.

Lt. Jessica Tyler of he Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said they have already developed meaningful goals. “According to statistics, about 16 percent of Albuquerque youth were involved in a fight or other type of assault in 2005. We want to reduce that by 5 percent by working on mediation techniques and getting officers and students trained,” Tyler said.

Every child has the right to a quality education and APS is committed to providing that education. For more information about Albuquerque Public Schools visit www.aps.edu.

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