September 25, 2023

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


Impact on Education, the Boulder Valley School District’s foundation, has raised about $800,000 to provide additional mental health support at Louisville and Superior schools in the wake of the Marshall Fire.

Most of the money will pay for four mental health advocates 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, also will work through the summer to support students.

“It was really important to have mental health support over the summer,” said Impact on Education Executive Director Allison Billings. “School has been a stabilizing force in their lives. Six months post disaster also tends to be a really, really hard time, and that will be this summer.”

About 800 Boulder Valley students and 50 staff members were displaced by the Marshall Fire, including about 500 students whose homes were destroyed. Altogether, 2,356 students and 192 staff members live within the burn area boundary.

To request support, families can fill out a form at

The additional mental health advocates funded by Impact are part of a larger effort by Boulder Valley to increase mental health support after the fires.

The district also is providing additional mental health support to those students through state and federal emergency grants, including hiring more school counselors and nurses. Plus, the district added outreach positions using two coronavirus relief grants earmarked for the federal McKinney-Vento program, which helps students without adequate housing.

“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 fellow neighbors for the many months and years it will take to not only rebuild, to once again feel safe and to return to normalcy.”

For the mental health advocates hired with $600,000 in Impact funding, two have worked in the Boulder Valley schools most affected by the fires since February, while two more start next week. Altogether, the district will have 15 mental health advocates next school year.

Billings said Impact quickly identified long-term mental health support as a key need after the fire and started fundraising. The district received 358 referrals for students needing mental help support in the first semester of this school year, she said, then more than 900 in the two weeks after the fire, which happened over winter break.

Boulder Valley’s mental health advocates support students’ social-emotional and behavioral development and achievement, as well as provide crisis intervention. Their work includes group and individual counseling, as well as help to families in accessing community resources.

Billings noted the additional mental health advocates will help free up bandwidth for the school counselors, allowing them to support more students who weren’t affected by the fire.

Along with mental health advocates, the money raised by Impact is supporting six hours of professional development for the district’s afterschool care educators on managing student — 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 sexual violence education and prevention, mental health, self-care and leadership. Billings said she hopes other high schools will use the conference as a model to offer similar sessions to students.

Contributors to Impact’s $800,000 mental health fund included the Community Foundation Boulder County, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, AT&T, UnitedHealthcare, Google, Bender West Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, Ilse Nathan Foundation and Boulder’s Housing and Human Services Department.

“The challenge now is, is that enough,” Billings said.


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