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Kentucky officials work to introduce app to help school, student safety

The app, which hasn't been developed yet, would provide real-time crisis intervention for students, educators or their family members.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A new phone app could soon make its way into the hands of Kentucky students, school staff and families across the Commonwealth next year.

It's called the "Safe KY" and it's a mental health and crisis reporting app for students and educators based off an existing platform in Utah called "SafeUT."

Martha Mather, CEO of the University of Louisville Health - Peace Hospital, says the app, which hasn't been developed yet, would provide real-time crisis intervention for students, educators or their family members.

She says an app like this is all encompassing, offering free 24/7 support, 365 days a year.

"Users can text the crisis counselor, they can submit confidential tips if there are school safety concerns, for instance, if there are issues with bullying, or cyberbullying," Mather said.

According to Mather, over the course of the pandemic, suicide rates have risen among teens and young adults. She says an app like this can hopefully be another tool to help avoid that.

RELATED: Pandemic took a toll on teen mental health, US study says

"I've noticed that a lot of youth are actually more comfortable talking about [suicide] than adults," Mather said. "I think our society has really shown some empathy."

State Representative Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, said lawmakers are already making great progress introducing the legislation into the General Assembly.

"I've gotten a lot of good input and good support from the General Assembly, and both sides of the chamber," Fleming said. "They see this as being very valuable in doing this so."

Fleming, a mental health advocate himself, believes an app like this can truly make a difference in preventing youth suicide.

"If we can take a proactive approach to help curtail that, to redirect them into terms of not thinking along those lines," he said. "That's a great tool."

Mather says "the proof is in the pudding" when looking at the app's success.

"They had close to 88% of the schools in the state of Utah using [the SafeUT app]," she said. "So we know that there's an interest level from youth and students, they had over 30,000 chats and tips that were reported."

Of those  tips, Mather said roughly 300 were life-saving tips

Both Fleming and Mather are expected to present the application to the Health and Welfare Committee next month to hopefully get it approved and ready for the 2023 legislative session as a bill.

If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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