West Fargo schools to add 5 therapists to address 'complex mental health crisis'
Positions will be 215-day positions and cost the district about $308,300, the majority of which will be paid for with federal money from the school-based mental health (SBMH) grant.
WEST FARGO — In its continued effort to increase mental and behavioral health resources, the West Fargo School District hopes to hire five mental health therapists before the end of this school year.
Human Resources Director Brittnee Nikle said the positions will be 215-day positions and cost the district about $308,300, the majority of which will be paid for with federal money from the school-based mental health (SBMH) grant.
In a memo to the school board, Nikle said the demand for clinical counseling services within schools has been a growing need. Referrals for contracted clinical counseling have increased 227% just this school year.
"By offering clinical therapy in our schools for learners who would otherwise experience barriers to accessing services, we are recognizing the critical need for enhanced (Tier 3) services for learners with moderate to severe needs, alleviating some of the pressures off our school staff who are not trained to address complex mental health crisis," Nikle said.
She added that addressing mental health early helps prevent achievement gaps, increase graduation rates and betters interpersonal relationships.
The district already employs a number of mental health professionals including social workers, school counselors and school psychologists. The five new positions will be qualified to support mild to moderate mental health concerns.
"These do require licenses," Nikle said.
Once grant money runs out, the district will have to decide whether or not it can retain the positions through its regular budgeting.
"They will have to run through our staffing committee process once the grant runs out," Nikle said. "They go up against all staff positions. So they will kind of have to compete."
Along with the five therapist positions, which the board approved hiring by unanimous vote, the school board also approved hiring about 20 new classroom teachers, most which will be for Horace High School.
"A majority of these positions are for Horace High School as they bring on grade 12 and as we are going to the academy model," Nikle said.
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Vince Williams said staff worked with high school principals to be as efficient as possible regarding the teacher hiring process, which included putting caps on certain elective classes to ensure there are enough students hoping to take certain classes.
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