Newly hired Mesa County School District 51 Mental Health and Crisis Coordinator Jason Talley has had to learn a lot in his first few weeks on the job.
Talley said he’s trying to get a handle on all that’s involved with crisis responses, safety and security, threatening behavior, and just trying to familiarize himself with the district’s policies.
So far in his tenure, Talley has had three separate incidents to deal with: one, before he was hired, involved a student who died by suicide. Another involved a student who attempted suicide, and the third involved a student who brought a weapon to school.
Most of Talley’s job involves coordinating things after an incident, making sure processes are in place to respond to an incident and making sure those processes are up to standards, he said.
Another task Talley has been working on has been looking over schools’ safety plans and making sure those plans work for the administrators, teachers and students.
Talley, whose salary this year will be $80,199, said his job as mental health and crisis coordinator involves a lot of coordinating with building administrators and prevention services, as well as counselors and families.
“If we can avoid having a crisis incident, then I think we’re being successful,” Talley said Wednesday in his office, located in the district’s security building, tucked behind the main administration building off Grand Avenue.
Talley said during his first few weeks on the job he has really enjoyed working with people in the school district who have a passion for working with students.
Before coming to D51, Talley worked as clinical director for Criminal Justice Services, where he oversaw programs and services for people in the criminal justice system. He said his job was making sure those people got the services they needed, and there is a lot of overlap with adult and student needs.
Talley said he became interested in the D51 position because he wanted to work with younger people and give them opportunities to be successful before they end up in the criminal justice system.
He’s taking over the position at a time when issues like youth suicide and social-emotional health have been receiving more attention.
A lot of kids are at a point with anxiety, depression, stress and/or conflict where it manifests in them acting out, even coming to points of crisis, Talley said.
Talley touted the Safe2Tell anonymous reporting system as a helpful resource in handling these issues, but there aren’t enough resources.
Talley said his main objective is to keep schools safe and allow school counselors to focus on the needs of the students.
“What can we do to work toward keeping schools and students safe?” Talley said.