LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- It was Jan. 23 when tragedy struck a small community in Western Kentucky, a student at Marshall County High School shooting his classmates, killing two and injuring more than a dozen. One day later, Joe Bargione and a fellow counselor were on the road, making the three-hour drive from Louisville to Benton, Kentucky.
"They were very welcoming and they are very tightly knit," Bargione said. "And what was amazing to me as an outsider coming into the community, the first couple of days, I saw the healing process come together."
The Marshall County community has been called strong, with neighbors leaning on neighbors in the wake of the tragedy, but sometimes, even the tightest-knit community can use some help. That's where Bargione, the lead psychologist for JCPS with 26 years of experience working in the school system, comes in. Bargione and 21 other JCPS employees have been traveling back and forth from Marshall County since the shooting after JCPS interim superintendent Marty Pollio spoke with Marshall County's superintendent offering support.
"Although they are three hours away, they are a school district just like we are, so he made that decision," he said. "He knows we have trained folks, and in that region, they may not have as many people trained in this work."
JCPS has 400 employees specifically trained in crisis work in school settings, taking part in a training program beginning in 2012. According to JCPS, this team responded to 50 cases in 2017 just within JCPS. The 22 employees sent to Marshall County constitute the largest response provided outside Jefferson County, according to JCPS.
"We worked primarily with the administrative staff at the school to help them design their plan of action for Thursday when the staff come back, and then Friday, when the students come back," Bargione said.
His job is not to replace the Marshall County staff, Bargione said, but rather, to support them. He said initially, the focus was helping with administrative plans while also making sure students, staff and families had the necessary supports and coping mechanisms in place for the days following the shooting.
"We wanted to reach out to their children because we would hope in times of a situation we may need help that other counties would come to our aid also," he said.
Bargione said there is no timeline as to how long JCPS will continue to send employees and the situation is assessed on a day-to-day basis, but he said they will continue lending a helping hand as long as they are needed.