Following the tragic death of their 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa Alhadeff, in a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on February 14, 2018, Ilan Alhadeff, MD, TeamHealth’s Advisor for Business Development and Start-Ups, and his wife, Lori Alhadeff, school board member for Broward County Public Schools, began promoting legislation for school safety.
In early March 2020, both the Florida House of Representatives and the Senate voted to unanimously pass Alyssa’s Law, Senate Bill 70, in Florida. On June 29, 2020, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Alyssa’s Law and allocated $8 million toward its enactment.
Alyssa’s Law mandates that all public schools, including charter schools, in Florida, implement a mobile panic alert system by the 2021-2022 school year. The alert will directly connect schools to local law enforcement to ensure real-time activation of emergency services, which could save lives in an emergency situation by reducing the time it takes for emergency services to respond. Alyssa’s Law has also been passed in New Jersey.
From the social media campaigns and requests for calls and emails to the governor’s office to my wife traveling back and forth to the state capital in Tallahassee, Florida, getting the law passed has taken a lot of effort,” said Dr. Alhadeff. “It was like trying to move a mountain but well worth it. We’re also pushing for this bill to pass in other states, including in New York where we have two bills in the New York Legislature, and on a federal level, where we also have two bills in Congress.”
TeamHealth: Can you tell me about your history with TeamHealth and other medical societies?
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff: I joined TeamHealth in February 2014, as a regional medical director, where I was responsible for 10 start-ups, including two large systems in different states. After about 18 months of successful programs along with my involvement with other corporate initiatives, I was then promoted to Vice President of Hospitalist Services (although the division underwent numerous name changes over the years). Recently, I transitioned over to business development as an Advisor for Business Development and Start-ups, working on financial and staffing analyses and development, in connection with the regional leadership, to start and onboard new programs. When the tragedy occurred, I was spending more time working with and rebuilding the Managed Care Division of TeamHealth.
Currently, I am a member of a number of medical societies, including The Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM), American College of Physicians (ACP), American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL), the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and the Broward County Medical Society (BCMS). I have been serving as a facilitator for SHM’s Annual Leadership Conference and since the tragedy, I’ve had the opportunity to speak on Leading through Adversity and Tragedy with both TeamHealth and The Society of Hospital Medicine. Unfortunately, we are all faced with various types of tragedy in our lives. I talk a lot about how people can get back to the workplace environment and function after a tragedy.
TeamHealth: Could you share a little about your family story and what led to you becoming a passionate legislative advocate?
Lori Alhadeff: Alyssa was the oldest of our three children. She was tragically killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in a school shooting on February 14, 2018. After Alyssa died, Ilan and I started a nonprofit organization called Make Our Schools Safe, which focuses specifically on school safety. We helped pass Alyssa’s Law in New Jersey last year and we are working toward passage in Florida this year. As part of Alyssa’s Law, we advocate for silent panic alarms in schools so in case of a life-threatening emergency, there will be a direct link to law enforcement to get them on the scene as quickly as possible to take down the threat. Time = Life.
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff: As you heard, the goal of Alyssa’s Law is to create safer schools where law enforcement can get on the scene as quickly as possible. The tragedy of February 14th might have been prevented, and lives spared, if the first person who witnessed the shooter on campus could have quickly “pushed the alert”. Teachers could have been notified to seek immediate shelter, and the building could have gone on lockdown, and my daughter as well as the 16 others could have been alive today.
We strongly believe that Alyssa’s Law can save lives. If you think about it, jewelry stores have panic buttons, and if they’re being robbed, they push a button and law enforcement comes. Are there any more valuable jewels, than our children, teachers and staff? I like to think of it that way and that’s why I believe it is so important to have this alarm.
I also want to add that with the panic button, this can be utilized for any emergency, so that not only Law Enforcement arrives on scene quickly, but medical help arrives there faster. This already exists in banks, courthouses, and other buildings. I would like to see this eventually extended to hospitals as well.
Getting the law passed has taken a lot of effort, and I give my wife credit for really rolling up her sleeves and traveling back and forth to the state capital in Tallahassee, Florida. We’re pushing for this bill to pass on both a state level as well as federally. In addition to Florida, we currently have two bills with the New York Legislature and two bills federally in Congress on Alyssa’s Law.
Lori Alhadeff: We know that gun laws need to change, but we recognize it’s a very polarizing topic today. One of the things we wanted to do was stay in our lane to focus on the changes we are able to make, like in school safety. These are measures everyone can get behind and they benefit every family in America. Our core mission for Make Our Schools Safe is to empower students and staff to create and maintain a culture of safety and vigilance in a secure school environment. For more information, you can visit our website at makeourschoolssafe.org
TeamHealth: Speaking of local efforts, we saw that you, Lori, were recently elected to the Broward County School Board. Can you tell us a little bit about why you ran for the spot and what you hope to achieve?
Lori Alhadeff: After the tragedy, I ran for and won a seat on the Broward County School Board, the sixth-largest school district in the country. For me to ensure change happens, I need to be there to hold people accountable. I have made school safety my top priority along with making sure students receive a high-quality education. As a school board member, my focus is on improving policies and procedures within the district that will make a positive impact on children’s lives. Seeing how even small changes turn into significant improvements helps me know I’m making a difference.
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff: I don’t think Lori gives herself enough credit. Lori stood up to help make changes the public wanted. It’s tough to move a political mountain; they move very slowly. Still, Lori continues to push and fight each day. One of the things I remember her talking about was during one of her first strategic planning sessions as a school board member. School safety wasn’t even mentioned, and Lori said, “Stop. We have to put school safety on this strategic plan because if our kids don’t come home, all the rest doesn’t matter.” That really resonated with people around the community and in her district, and they appreciate the fact that she’s on the school board fighting for them.
Lori Alhadeff: A few more things that I would like to add about our foundation, Make Our Schools Safe. The money goes directly to school safety initiatives. We’ve sponsored ‘Stop the Bleed’ Training and provided kits for both traditional and Title 1 schools. This is important because we are teaching children basic first aid that could save another child’s life in times of emergencies. In an effort to create a more secure school facility, we implemented fencing and improved single-point entry. We’re also providing support around mental health as part of our school safety initiatives. There are ‘Make Our Schools Safe Clubs’ that empower children to get involved and to create a culture of safety and awareness. We encourage students to speak out when they see something wrong before something bad happens.
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff: Utilizing an anonymous reporting App in an effort to stop tragedies before it happens, one student realized their friend was going to kill themselves, so they reported it anonymously and this prevented a child’s suicide. You see, when we provide the tools for people to use, we could prevent further tragedy.
TeamHealth: How did TeamHealth support you during this time?
Dr. Ilan Alhadeff: We have had a lot of support, and for that, we are very grateful. I remember during my daughter’s funeral, executives and other leaders from TeamHealth came to pay their respects to me, and that was very powerful. The message was “we’ve got your back”, and I remember that. My boss at the time, Dr. Gundersen, was always checking on me. Others continue to check on me, give me a hug, or ask me how my wife’s doing as they follow our legislative efforts. We’re very fortunate to be part of a progressive and supportive company like Teamhealth.
To learn more about, volunteer, or to donate to the foundation, please go to www.MakeOurSchoolsSafe.org.
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