RCPD and PCSO launch Handle with Care Program

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Elvert Barnes / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Pixabay / CC BY-SA 2.0

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Pennington County Sheriffs Office and Rapid City Police Department are working with Rapid City Area School District and the Douglas School District to launch a new program to the area, “Handle with Care.”

The Handle with Care Program is a way for law enforcement to notify schools if they encounter a student at a traumatic scene, so schools and mental healthcare leaders can provide trauma-sensitive support right away.

“As first responders, we’re often the first ones to come in contact with a child in the aftermath of a traumatic event,” says Rapid City Chief of Police Don Hedrick in a statement. “That’s why it’s so important that we can develop a program that can kindly and gently wrap its arms around that child as they work to process and recover from these kinds of trauma.”

The Handle with Care Program has three components:

  • Deputies with the PCSO or an officer with the RCPD will send a notification to RCAS’ lead social worker when they encounter a child at a traumatic scene. Police don’t send incident details to schools, just: “Handle with Care” and the child’s name.
  • The District’s social worker 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 nurses office to sleep, or sending the student to the counselor.
  • If needed, the counselor will make a referral to a mental healthcare provider who will coordinate with the parents/caretakers and the school to provide therapy on site or in the community.

“The biggest change is just more of an awareness among school staff that something that would be going on and then if we if rises to the level of to where, you know, a school liaison officer has to be involved, they also have that in the back of their head, understanding that this kid has gone through some things too,” said Lieutenant Tim Doyle.

To learn more about the Handle with Care Program, check out the video here.

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.

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