ST. LOUIS – St. Louis County Executive Sam Page renewed his plea for more mental health services in the county and stronger federal gun laws, one day after 19 children and two adults were killed in a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school.

Page explained the need to expand mental health services at a news conference Wednesday, saying the need far exceeds the capacity in the region. He noted that continuing to expand mental health is one of the top things county can do in wake of Tuesday’s tragedy in Texas.

“Given the overwhelming community need, there must be more done,” said Page.

Page says the St. Louis Department of Public Health is on track to handle more mental health cases than any point over the last five years. After assisting with more than 2,300 cases last year, the department is on pace to assist with more than 3,000 calls in 2022.

While explaining the need for expanded mental health services in St. Louis, Page addressed the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.

“My remarks today have been focused on mental health, but I can’t step away without saying we must have stronger gun laws in our country. Thoughts and prayers won’t do it. We must protect our future.”

Following the shooting, Page says there should be stronger gun laws at the federal level and a repeal of the Second Amendment Preservation Act in Missouri. He said, on a local level, St. Louis County can respond by expanding its mental health services.

According to Page, the department would consider two courses of action toward mental health if more state or federal funding becomes available. More mental health case management would be one priority, which would allow the county to coordinate a professional or team to closely meet an individual’s needs. Page also suggests more treatment to combat substance abuse.

In the upcoming weeks, Page said the department is planning to expand upon its opioid action plan in an effort to combat substance abuse. This would allow the county to increase the availability of NARCAN and direct more mental health efforts toward high-risk populations. Page said these services are available as part of $45 million coming to the county from the state’s $458 million opioid settlement from February.

Page also explained the importance of mental health providers connecting with children in the county. A youth connection hotline is available 24/7 in the county. Parents can reach out to the hotline at 314-819-8802 or bhrstl.org for assistance.