Threat advisory group

Representatives from law enforcement, K-12 school districts and mental health organizations discuss example cases they would typically handle as a threat advisory group.

Young people concerned about a classmate acting on violent thoughts or worried about a kid who’s talked about suicide should have a new number to call anonymously to seek help come January.

So should any young person needing mental health help themselves.

The Omaha City Council on Tuesday held a public hearing on accepting grant funding for the new Safe2Help Hotline, which aims to make sure youths can call, click or write for help from adults anonymously.

The hotline will use Boys Town’s skilled operators to steer help to students in need, with involvement from public K-12 school district officials in Douglas County, the Omaha Police Department and mental health professionals.

Organizers say they are also reaching out to local parochial schools.

This winter, they will unveil a website, email address and calling option to share tips anonymously. People will be answering calls 24/7, in case callers want to give their name or need immediate help.

“This is just building better relationships and coming up with strategies that we can better address the tips that are coming in,” said Denise Rieder, who is coordinating the threat advisory group for Douglas County.

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Funding will come from the Omaha Police Foundation, along with the Sherwood Foundation. The City Council will vote Nov. 5 on whether to accept $422,303 to fund the coordinator, safety equipment, audits and training.

The hotline system aims to streamline the different approaches of school districts, counselors and law enforcement agencies to make sure the right people know about threats and needs at the right time, Rieder said.

Representatives from several school districts have been training on the new system, including the Omaha Public Schools, Westside, Millard, Douglas County West, Bennington and Elkhorn, officials said.

Sarpy County already has its own threat assessment system, and the State of Nebraska has been discussing the potential of doing something broader.

Rieder said she doesn’t expect miracles of the new system, just a new and easier way to receive and share information that is convenient for youths and offers them reassurance that they aren’t tattletales.

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