West Fargo Public Schools hoping to add clinical therapists for students

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 7:07 PM CST
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - West Fargo Public Schools reports that referrals for contracted clinical counseling in the district have increased 227% so far this school year. In a staffing request to the school board, they say its imperative to address the need by offering more access to therapy options for learners.

The request is to add five clinically trained therapists to the staff using funding acquired through the school-based mental health (SBMH) grant. The projected salary cost is roughly $300,000. Currently the district only employs social workers, school counselors, and school psychologists who are qualified to support mild to moderate mental health concerns. The goal is that as learners gain access to therapy, the district would start to see a reduction in chronic absenteeism, in school and out of school suspensions, and office referrals.

The request states: With each therapist having the ability to see a minimum of 20 learners for ongoing therapy, that offers at least 100 additional learners receiving ongoing individual therapy with the potential for that caseload to increase.

Another change would be adding the option of group therapy. The district says its current contracted providers are unable to run therapeutic groups as they cannot bill for the services; however, the district could overcome that barrier with its own clinical staff.

The staffing memo also request the addition of 1.5 FTEs of social-emotional-behavioral (SEB) interventionists using SBMH grant funds, with a projected salary cost of roughly $76,000. These will be aligned to elementary buildings based on need.

The school board will consider the staffing request at its meeting Monday, March 13.