June 19, 2017

United Way makes new investment to help West Fargo students access mental health services

June 19, 2017

United Way announced  today that they will collaborate with Sanford Health to make a joint investment in the West Fargo Public School District to bring a Student Wellness Facilitator to help students in grades K-12 access mental health services beginning fall 2017.
United Way and Sanford Health are collaborating and will both invest $25,000, for a total of $50,000 for the West Fargo School District to hire the Imagine Thriving Student Wellness Facilitator.

Student Wellness Facilitators are based on a model created by Imagine Thriving and are specially trained social workers or professionals who work inside and outside the school building, including outside of regular school hours and days. Student Wellness Facilitators connect students who require support outside the scope of the school counselors’ role to mental health care professionals. They will provide support and provide parents/guardians with the information needed to support their child’s mental wellbeing and to navigate medical and insurance systems.

“Sanford is pleased to support this effort offering students the resources they need to overcome behavioral health issues. Our community’s future relies on the young people living here today. We hope to inspire other organizations to provide additional resources so we can continue the impressive effort to place additional behavioral health resources in schools to assist students and their families,” said Paul Richard, Executive Vice President of Sanford Fargo.
The Student Wellness Facilitator will help remove barriers for students and their families such as the stigma associated with mental health issues and lack of awareness and understanding of mental health issues that students face. The role will also be a resource for students, parents and guardians who don’t know where to turn for help.

“We know a Student Wellness Facilitator will be instrumental in connecting students to the services they need, and benefit the community by increasing access to and awareness of behavioral health services and resources,” said Charlotte Siemens, M.D., Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist for Sanford Health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. In a school classroom of 25 students that may mean five students may be struggling with the same issues many adults face such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Locally, according to the North Dakota Youth Behavior survey, one in four kids in North Dakota is struggling with a mental health issue and nearly one in 10 have attempted suicide.

According to the most recent North Dakota Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
• 27% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities during the last 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 30%)
• 20% of 6-8th grade students & 16% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota seriously considered attempting suicide during the last 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 18%)
• 13% of 6-8th grade students & 14% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota made a plan about how they would attempt suicide in the last 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 15%)
• 7% of 6-8th grade students & 9% of 9-12th grade students in North Dakota actually attempted suicide one or more times during the past 12 months. (National average for 9-12th grade students: 9%)

The Goetz Mental Wellness Initiative and Imagine Thriving have partnered with Fargo and Moorhead Public Schools to pilot the Student Wellness Facilitators in their two districts. 

•During the 2015/2016 school year, 181 students in the Fargo Public School system were served.
•Data demonstrates that over half of the referrals for services were from the elementary school level.
•The top three reasons for students seeking services were mood, anxiety and family instability.

•During the 2015/2016 school year, 91 students in the Moorhead Public School system were served.
•Data demonstrates that more than 60% of the referrals for services were from the middle school level.


Both the Moorhead Public School District and Fargo Public School District continue to employ Student Wellness Facilitators as district personnel and have found them to be valuable to the wellbeing and education of students.

This joint investment from United Way and Sanford Health will allow the vision to have Student Wellness Facilitators and mental wellness education in each of the three metro school districts to become a reality.

United Way is investing in the Student Wellness Facilitator as a strategy to achieve two of its four Bold Goals:  Preparing Children to Succeed and Helping People Be Independent by increasing access to behavioral health and counseling services. 

United Way makes investments in the community toward Four Bold Community Goals: Reduce Hunger and Homelessness, Prepare Children to Succeed, Help People Be Independent, and Lift People Out of Poverty.

For more information, email unitedway@unitedwaycassclay.org or call 701-237-5050.

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