Fact Pattern The coronavirus pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for youth and their families. The superintendent of Winstar County Public

Fact Pattern
The coronavirus pandemic presented unprecedented challenges for youth and their families. The superintendent of Winstar County Public Schools (“WCPS”), Ms. Claiborne, believes that the pandemic exacerbated an already growing youth mental health crisis among WCPS schools and she wants the county to develop and implement a suicide prevention program. Winstar County is a small, tight knit community in the State of Kentuckiana.

At the statewide superintendent meeting over the summer, Ms. Claiborne brought up the issue of youth mental health. To her surprise, an overwhelming number of superintendents from counties all over Kentuckiana agreed that this is a public health issue. In fact, the superintendent from Calumet County Public Schools explained that one of his high school principals took it upon herself to conduct a schoolwide screening of all students in their homeroom class. The screening was simple. It just asked if the students needed help with thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Despite its simplicity, approximately a dozen students answered affirmatively at that single school. For those students that were able to be identified, the school guidance team worked to assist the students with getting access to the help they needed. This anecdote solidified Ms. Claiborne’s theory that teenagers are struggling, and the county or even the state, needs to act.

Ms. Claiborne took her concern and intervention recommendation to the Winstar County School Board. During her comments at an open board meeting last month, she explained that today’s teens spend a significant amount of time at school where they are subject to stressors of academic achievement and future success. Unfortunately, the pandemic intensified these stressors while adding social isolation and uncertainty. Ms. Claiborne explained that many students do not have access to the services they need at home. However, because all Winstar County youth have access to the public-school setting, delivering suicide prevention in schools expands access to resources regardless of sex/gender, race, ethnicity, and other characteristics that are associated with unequal access to mental healthcare.

Notably, during the open meeting, some community members and parents voiced concerns that public school may not be the appropriate place to implement suicide prevention. The concerned individuals believe issues of mental health are not “public health” and should instead be addressed in the clinical setting, or in private at the home.

Ms. Claiborne knows that because it is a small county, Winstar has significant budget constraints. Nevertheless, she believes that if the county gathers the necessary data, analysis will prove the need so that the county government will act to protect the students of Winstar County.

Draft a 2-3 page memorandum to assist Ms. Claiborne in her efforts to address this issue for Winstar County. She has come to you for guidance because she knows that in order for the government to act, they first need data.

Take the position that youth mental health is a public health issue. Reassure Ms. Claiborne by explaining why this is the case.
Explain whether the county has the power to act, and the legal basis for why this level of government is or is not appropriate for gathering data to address this issue.
Detail the challenges surveillance programs face when collecting data, such as the concern Ms. Claiborne already raised regarding budget constraints.
Provide your recommendation as to how the county should conduct the surveillance, taking into consideration issues of identity and follow-up needs.
Finally, explain your position as to whether the data should be public information or if an exception should apply.

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