Florida representative recommends changes to keep kids safe

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Florida representative Heather Fitzenhagen

Mental health concerns are a big topic in Tallahassee after a shooting left 17 students and faculty dead last week in Parkland, Florida.

Reports show suspect Nikolas Cruz, 19, was depressed and suffered from ADHD and autism, which raises red flags for how he was able to legally purchase a semi-automatic rifle.

After the massacre, Florida representative Heather Fitzenhagen held a closed-door round table with school leaders, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and even legal experts.

“I was trying to in a quick time-frame get some real information from pros who deal with these problems everyday so I could give this input to people who are making decisions in Tally,” Fitzenhagen said.

A large concern for Fitzenhagen is a lack of follow-up with mental health patients and the disconnect when it comes to relaying important information to schools.

“People are discharged after 72 hours, and they are able to go back out into the community without necessarily any follow up, any additional observation, any care, or even scarier to me, any communication that this incident may have occurred,” Fitzenhagen said.

More secure school entrances and additional safety guards were also discussed at the meeting.

“We also discussed if we should place a tax on firearms and/or ammunition in order to fund some of the safety measures that we were discussing,” Fitzenhagen said.

Legal expert William DeForest Thompson, Jr. believes more conversations like these need to happen.

“A while back it might have been appropriate to give families time to grieve,” Thompson, Jr. said. “My own personal opinion is that we’ve gone past that point. I think we need to be talking about this before during and after.”

Fitzenhagen expects funding and an action plan to be in place by the end of the legislative session in March.

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