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BIE tribal schools to keep counseling, crisis services

Ahfachkee media specialist/teacher Michele Horrell reads to a group of third graders in 2020. (File photo)

Virtual counseling and onsite crisis services are being extended at Bureau of Indian Education-funded (BIE) tribal schools.

The Department of Interior announced June 29 that the BIE had entered into a five-year contract to increase access to behavioral health and wellness support for students and staff. The program first began during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are 183 BIE-funded elementary and secondary schools. Of those, 55 are BIE-operated and 128 are tribally controlled. The Seminole Tribe’s Ahfachkee School on the Big Cypress Reservation and the Miccosukee Indian School west of Miami are Florida’s two BIE-funded, tribally controlled schools.

“The Interior Department is committed to creating positive, safe and culturally-relevant learning environments,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo), said in a news release. “I am proud of the hard work by the Bureau of Indian Education to ensure that Indigenous youth have the support they need in a culturally-relevant and supportive environment for their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.”

The news release said the program gives students and staff Indigenous-focused support in behavioral health and wellness. It said services are tailored to meet “the unique and diverse mental, cultural, spiritual, emotional and social needs of Indigenous communities served by BIE.”

“Mental wellness is a key component of every student’s success,” BIE director Tony Dearman (Cherokee Nation), said in the news release. “We will focus these resources on the unique issues that face our Indigenous students with a clear emphasis on suicide prevention, crisis services and behavioral health through an Indigenous lens.”

Services include virtual behavioral health counseling, a BIE-specific 24/7 crisis hotline, and onsite crisis support. The release said the program’s clinical team is primarily staffed with Indigenous clinicians, who have direct experience serving Native communities.

Tribal Tech LLC – a Native American owned small business – has been hired to execute the contract. For more about the program, click here.