GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A town hall meeting was held in Grand Haven Monday evening to discuss the issues surrounding mass shootings and the impact they have on communities.
The meeting at the Grand Haven Community Center brought together mental health professionals, law enforcement leaders and community members. Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker and representatives from Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services in metro Grand Rapids were among those on hand to listen and share insight.
Organizers aimed to differentiate those struggling with mental illness from those who commit atrocious crimes.
“We think it’s particularly important that we tease apart mental illness and people who are not a risk of violence against mental health issues that certainly have to be addressed,” Barbara Lee VanHorssen told News 8 at the meeting.
She is the director of the Momentum Center for Social Engagement in Grand Haven.
“I think that it’s really important that we listen to the people who are experiencing needs in our community, who are trying to access resources and create that conduit between those people and the people who provide the resources in the community,” VanHorssen said.
Participants discussed prevention through mental health services and intervention, but also talked about healing those impacted by the shootings that have made headlines with regularity.
Gabrielle Easterly, a Spring Lake High School junior, shared the anxiety she and classmates feel as they participate in active shooter drills at school.
“What goes through my head is, ‘This shouldn’t even be a thing,'” Easterly told News 8. “I shouldn’t feel unsafe going to a place where I have to go.”
VanHorssen is part of an organization called Extended Grace, described as “a nonprofit grassroots movement to create a stigma-free community.” The organization has spearheaded several meetings since 2017 centered around mental health.