Boulder Valley School District and its foundation, Impact on Education, are seeking emergency funding for additional mental health professionals to help students impacted by the Marshall fire.
Impact on Education is working to raise funds to hire four additional mental health advocates and the school district is seeking emergency grants from the state and federal governments to hire additional support staff.
Mental health advocates focus on prevention and intervention for students, including social-emotional and behavioral development, achievement and crisis intervention.
The district has seen an 86% increase in students referred to mental health advocates this year, according to the foundation, signs of the compounding effect of the pandemic, the mass shooting at King Soopers and the Marshall fire.
“Overall, students are struggling,” said Catherine Wessling, spokesperson for Impact on Education. “The demand for mental health services is going up across the board and school is a key layer of that mental health support and making sure students, especially at the most impacted schools, have that additional support is important.”
Community Foundation Boulder County’s wildfire fund will allocate $265,000 of the $537,000 needed to fund four advocates through the end of the next school year, and Impact on Education is working to obtain the remaining funding.
The mental health advocates would be assigned to the seven schools most impacted by the Marshall fire, which serve 6,061 students, 687 of whom lost their homes or are displaced.
“With more than one in every ten students losing their homes and nearly all students at these schools impacted by the evacuation orders and trauma of temporary displacement, these are the schools with our most pressing mental health needs right now,” foundation leaders wrote in an announcement.
Students impacted by the wildfire are working to process everything that’s happened, said BVSD Student Support Services Director Tammy Lawrence in a statement.
“It was a deeply traumatic experience and it will take some time for these students to cope with the tremendous amount of loss and PTSD that everyone impacted by the fires are struggling through,” she said.
The foundation is continuing to accept donations to benefit students impacted by the Marshall fire, Wessling said.
“The key right now is that the needs of those students and everyone in this community are still evolving, and raising the money now will help us address any need that arises down the road,” Wessling said.