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West Fargo Public Schools awarded nearly $12M in behavioral health grant funding

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$2.3 million per year for five years will be distributed to the school system's Department of Behavioral Health & Wellness, the first department of its kind in North Dakota.

Nearly 12 million dollars has been awarded to the West Fargo Public Schools Department of Behavioral Health & Wellness to provide mental health services across the district.

The Department was established in 2022. Director Annie Richards says the money comes from the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program, and will be distributed in 2.3 million dollar yearly installments for five years.

Richards says the grant will help support 21 additional positions in West Fargo Public Schools, including counselors, social workers, school psychologists, therapists and interventionists.

"West Fargo, like the nation, has seen an increase in student mental health needs after the pandemic, and that coupled with our rapid growth has really led to the need for more services in our schools, but also more developed systems to support our students in our schools. We have some amazing staff who work in West Fargo and work toward these problems, and to support the educators and learners - but we need to not just push in more staff, but more staff within a system, so as we expand we are able to replicate these supports."

Richards says in addition to the new positions, the grant will also fund mental health training for educators within the West Fargo Public School system. She says an educator wellness facilitator will also be hired to help focus on culture and climate to help retain new employees.

The West Fargo Public Schools Department of Behavioral Health & Wellness is the first department of its kind in North Dakota.