BEND, OR -- Bend-La Pine Schools is taking a high-tech approach to helping students dealing with stressful situations or suicidal thoughts. Julianne Repman says the district pushed out “First Step” to all iPads issued to students in grades six through 12, just before winter break. "It’s about 11,000 students that received it, and it lives on their iPad. So, it was just a great opportunity for us to go where students are instead of asking students to come to us."
Repman tells KBND News the district has been working on the “First Step” app for months with a number of local agencies, "We have a great community partner in Bend Police Department, who saw the opportunity to take all these tools that were already available to students but put them in a package that’s really more palatable for youth. They can just click a button and literally they can be on the phone with someone talking about a break-up or a test or something that’s giving them great anxiety, or just reporting something that’s a concern to them." She says it's in response to needs in the community, "To have conversations about social-emotional well-being, specifically how to help prevent suicide and suicide ideation; helping to insure that people understand that it’s ok to have these conversations. In fact, we really want to open the door, and if someone has questions about suicide, we want to let them know they’re cared for and that they’ve been heard, and help them find assistance through a trusted adult or through one of the resources you’ll find here on this app."
Bend-La Pine Schools planned to roll the program out in January, but Repman says the timeline was accelerated after a Summit High student and another from Redmond committed suicide December 14. "We have partners in the community who were letting us know that with the holidays upon us and other issues taking place that they were seeing some spikes in folks that were looking for resources and some social-emotional support. So, we thought the timing was right to go ahead and do this now."
Students without a school-issued iPad, as well as the general public, can access First Step from any computer or mobile device through the website FirstStepOregon.org
. To read more about the program, including an explination from the Superintendent, click HERE