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West Fargo, ND – (January 9, 2023) – The West Fargo Public Schools Department of Behavioral Health & Wellness has been awarded more than $2.3 million per year for five years under the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program. This funding will be used to hire 21 full-time staff to provide mental health services across the district, purchase new equipment to accommodate these services, and provide mental health training to existing staff to support all learners.

The Department of Behavioral Health & Wellness has been led by Director Ms. Annie Richards since its establishment in 2022. Within its first six months, this department was awarded the School-Based Mental Health grant through the Department of Education. “This grant will provide nearly $12 million over the next five years to support 21 additional positions in WFPS including counselors, social workers, school psychologists, therapists, and interventionists.” says Richards. “With these dollars, we can integrate needed supports and optimize capacity as West Fargo continues to grow. Adding staff in this way helps us develop intentional systems to support our learners and make the shift toward a more strategic and global approach to learner and educator wellness.”

The School-Based Mental Health Grant Program provides competitive grants to State educational agencies (SEAs), Local educational agencies (LEAs), and consortia of LEAs to increase the number of credentialed school-based mental health service providers delivering school-based mental health services to students in LEAs with demonstrated need. The grant provides $144 million each year for 5 years, with an average award size of $1,750,000, ranging from $500,000 to $3,000,000 per year. The Department of Education anticipates making up to 150 awards.

In summer 2022, WFPS became the first district in North Dakota to create a department centered on behavioral health and wellness. The behavioral health needs of our learners continue to rise. In addition, the need to develop internal infrastructure to support the many-pronged learner and educator wellness initiatives also increased. As WFPS grows and student enrollment increases, so does the need for a district-wide system to support the individual school systems. Combined with the rise in student behavioral challenges and mental health needs after COVID, it is more critical than ever to develop a system that can both meet the current needs of our learners and expand with our population growth.


Travis Gavin