US Department of the Interior Expands Behavioral Health and Wellness Program for Tribal Schools, Including 20 Eligible Sites in South Dakota

The US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education has awarded an additional five-year contract to increase access to behavioral health and wellness support for all students and staff at Bureau-funded schools and programs.

The Behavioral Health and Wellness Program was originally developed to increase access to services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers on-site virtual counseling and crisis services.

The BIE’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Program provides Indigenous, evidence-based and trauma-based behavioral health and wellbeing support to students and staff at all Office-funded schools and programs. Services are tailored to the unique and diverse mental, cultural, spiritual, emotional and social needs of the indigenous communities served by BIE.

Services include telebehavioural health counseling focused on providing short-term, solution-focused and culture-sensitive virtual counseling, a 24/7 BIE-specific crisis hotline and on-site crisis support. The program’s clinical team consists primarily of Indigenous clinicians who have direct experience in caring for Indigenous communities.

Virtual Crisis Support and On-Site Crisis Support offer a comprehensive and systemic approach to support individuals or groups during critical incidents or traumatic events. Virtual services offer a way to address challenges such as limited on-site providers, minimal transportation options, long wait times and limited scheduling options for caregivers.

The program also provides various types of technical assistance and hosts training to promote suicide prevention and other resilience-focused topics. Staff at BIE-funded schools will continue to have access to youth mental health first aid training and certification, virtual discussion groups, monthly behavioral health webinars, and professional development opportunities.

To ensure continuity of service and to implement advisory and crisis service support, the BIE awarded the additional five-year contract to Tribal Tech, LLC, a small Native American-owned business that supports efforts to promote economic development opportunities in Indian land through the Buy Indian Act . Eligible schools in South Dakota are:

  • American Horse School
  • Cheyenne-Eagle Butte School
  • Crazy horse school
  • Crow Creek Reservation High School
  • Crow Creek Tribal Elementary School
  • Enemy Swim Day School
  • Flandreau Indian School
  • Isna Wica Owayawa (Loneman School)
  • Little Eagle Grant School
  • Small school of wounds
  • Lower Brule Schools
  • Marty Indian School
  • Pahin Sinte Owayawa School (Porcupine School)
  • Learning Center of the Pierre Indian School
  • Pine Ridge School
  • Rock Creek Grant School
  • Sicangu Owayawa Oti (Rosebud Dormitory)
  • St Francis Indian School
  • Takini school
  • Tiospa Zina tribal school
  • Tiospaye Topa School
  • District School for Wounded Knees

“The Home Office is committed to creating positive, safe and culturally relevant learning environments. I am proud of the Bureau of Indian Education’s hard work to ensure that Indigenous youth receive the support they need for their physical, mental and emotional well-being in a culturally relevant and supportive environment,” said Secretary Deb Haaland.

“Our schools play an important role in the lives of students, faculty and staff, and tribal communities. By providing these resources, we help our students and the BIE team thrive in the classroom. More importantly, we will help promote the mental and physical well-being of entire communities,” he said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland.

“Mental well-being is a key component to any student’s success,” he said BIE Director Tony Dearman. “We will focus these resources on the unique issues faced by our Indigenous students, with a clear focus on suicide prevention, crisis services and behavioral health from an Indigenous perspective.” We believe this will have a significant positive impact across the Indian country, by supporting future leaders, reducing generational trauma and promoting healthier lives.”

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