The White Salmon Valley Education Foundation will receive $100,000 in funding for the White Salmon Valley School District’s Health and Wellness Center, to be utilized in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years. Funding is provided by the Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health (SWACH), a Vancouver, Wash.- based nonprofit organization.
“The foundation had a meeting with school principals where we asked how we could better help them meet their needs,” said Amanda Lawrence, executive director of the Education Foundation, in a press release. “They told us loud and clear that schools were dealing with a mental health crisis. Principals and teachers were spending more and more time helping students and families navigate mental health and substance abuse issues, and they needed support.”
In response, the school district and foundation partnered with NorthShore Medical Group to launch a program this school year to provide mental health and substance use services directly to students, thanks to an initial $75,000 grant from SWACH. So far this school year, the program has provided 46 students with regular, one-on-one therapy sessions at school with mental health professionals employed by NorthShore. During the COVID-19 pandemic, about half of the students enrolled in therapy are continuing their weekly appointments via telehealth.
Michelle Ward, the health and wellness coordinator for the District, was hired thanks to the initial SWACH grant. Her position links students and families to mental health services, as well as to other vital services such as food and housing. “One huge thing with this program has been breaking the stigma around mental health,” Ward stated. “I think we’re doing that just by having the NorthShore therapists at school . . . parents and teachers are becoming more and more vested in the program as they see positive changes in students who are receiving therapy.”
The $100,000 in new funding from SWACH will help continue to fund Ward’s position, and will also launch new programs such as family support groups and mental health training for teachers.
In 2019, White Salmon voters approved a $7 million school district capital bond measure, which, among other projects, funds a 1,200 square foot modular/portable building. The new portable building will house the Health and Wellness Center and will provide a designated space for therapy appointments and support groups.
The mission of the WSVEF is to enrich the education of PK – 12 students in the White Salmon Valley public schools. Over the past decade, the WSVEF has contributed nearly $4 million dollars to schools through grant writing and awarding grants directly from community-raised funds.