West Fargo schools to add 5 therapists to deal with ‘complex mental health crisis’ – InForum

WEST FARGO — In its ongoing efforts 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.

Director of Human Resources Brittnee Nikle said the positions will be 215-day positions and will cost the district approximately $308,300, the majority of which will be paid for with federal School Mental Health Grant money ( SBMH).

In a memo to the school board, Nikle said there is a growing need for clinical counseling services in schools. Referrals for contract clinical counseling have increased 227% this school year alone.

“By providing clinical therapy in our schools to learners who would otherwise experience barriers to accessing services, we recognize the critical need for enhanced (level 3) services for learners with moderate to severe needs, alleviating some of the pressures on our school staff who are not trained to deal with a complex mental health crisis,” Nikle said.

She added that addressing mental health early helps prevent achievement gaps, increases graduation rates and improves 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 address mild to moderate mental health issues.

“These require licenses,” Nikle said.

Once the grant money is exhausted, the district will need to decide whether or not it can keep the positions as part of its regular budgeting.

“They will have to go through our staffing committee process once the grant runs out,” Nikle said. “They compete against all staff positions. So they will have to compete in a way.”

In addition to the five therapist positions, which the board unanimously approved, the school board also approved the hiring of approximately 20 new teachers, most for Horace High School.

“The majority of these positions are for Horace High School as they bring in 12th grade and as we move towards the academy model,” Nikle said.

Deputy Superintendent of Secondary Education Vince Williams said staff were working with secondary school principals to be as efficient as possible with the teacher recruitment process, which included setting up ceilings for certain optional classes to ensure that there were enough students hoping to attend certain classes.

Readers can contact reporter Wendy Reuer at [email protected] or 701-241-5530. Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy.

As West Fargo’s Managing Editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees production for the weekly magazine Pioneer.

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