Sandy Hook vs. Columbine Attention Varies

Behavioral health’s visibility has increased dramatically in the last 15 years, spiking most recently in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Will it remain a high priority among all healthcare stakeholders, including educators, physicians and payers, or will it fade somewhat like it did in the years after Columbine?


Educators, athletic coaches, and healthcare professionals made “behavioral health” a bigger priority in their own jobs and/or organizations in the years following tragedies at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary, according to the Continuum of Care Poll started in 1999. Attention to behavioral health has been greater after Sandy Hook and continues to increase. Interestingly, those working in schools placed less emphasis on behavioral health in 2006 than in the period immediately following Columbine’s tragedy, but have since increased their focus on it (i.e. staffing, assessments, policies and referrals) due to the emphasis on bullying, Sandy Hook and other trends in education.

Physicians place far more emphasis on behavioral health than they did 15 years ago, including doctors who work outside of primary care or psych, such as health plan medical directors or ER doctors. Even coaches, namely those focused on youth sports, consider behavioral health a bigger priority. Not surprisingly, parents polled put more of a priority on behavioral health than non parents. Questions about the poll:


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