Impact on education to fund 4 mental health advocates for Marshall Fire schools

The impact on education, the Boulder Valley School Foundation, raised about $ 800,000 to provide additional mental health support to schools in Louisville and Superior after the Marshall Fire.

Most of the money will be paid to four mental health defenders next school year to work with students and their families affected by the fire. Two of the advocates, along with a school nurse and a housing advocate, will also work in the summer to support the students.

“It was really important to get mental health support over the summer,” said Impact on Education CEO Alison Billings. “School has been a stabilizing force in their lives. Six months after the disaster also tends to be a really, really tough time and that will be this summer.

About 800 students in Boulder Valley and 50 employees were displaced by the Marshall fire, including about 500 students whose homes were destroyed. A total of 2,356 students and 192 employees live within the incineration zone.

To request support, families can fill out a form at

The additional Impact-funded mental health advocates are part of a larger effort by Boulder Valley to increase support for post-fire mental health.

The county also provides additional mental health support to these students through state and federal emergency grants, including hiring more school counselors and nurses. In addition, the county added outreach positions using two coronavirus grants for the federal McKinney-Vento program, which helps homeless students.

“This is not a situation that will be resolved in days or weeks,” Boulder Valley Superintendent Rob Anderson said in a statement. “We must be ready to help our neighbors for many months and years, which will take not only to recover, but to feel safe again and return to normal.

For mental health advocates hired for $ 600,000 to fund Impact, two worked in the schools in Boulder Valley most affected by the February fires, while two more began next week. In total, the district will have 15 mental health defenders in the next school year.

Billings said Impact was quick to identify long-term mental health support as a key need after the fire and began raising funds. The district received 358 referrals for students in need of mental health in the first semester of this school year, she said, and then more than 900 in the two weeks following the fire that broke out during the winter holidays.

Boulder Valley mental health advocates support students’ socio-emotional and behavioral development and achievement, as well as provide crisis intervention. Their work includes group and individual counseling, as well as helping families access community resources.

Billings noted that additional mental health advocates will help clear the bandwidth for school counselors, allowing them to support more students who have not been affected by the fire.

Together with advocates for mental health, the money raised by Impact supports six hours of professional development for out-of-school care educators in the student management area and their own mental health needs.

Impact on Education also provided funding to help Fairview High School host a conference for students with sessions on education and prevention of sexual violence, mental health, self-care and leadership. Billings said he hoped other high schools would use the conference as a model to offer similar sessions to students.

Participants in the $ 800,000 Impact Mental Health Fund include the Boulder County Community Foundation, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, AT&T, UnitedHealthcare, Google, the Bender West Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, the Ilse Nathan Foundation and Boulder’s Housing and Human Services Department.

“Is the challenge enough now,” Billings said.

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