The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado is partnering with Mancos School District RE-6 to offer counseling services for students and staff through January.
An announcement for the services on the district’s website identified a recent suicide, COVID-19 and substance abuse as critical issues for staff and students.
The Grief Center reached out to the district after a student died in July, said Director Judy Austin. Counseling will be available by the end of the month or the beginning of November, she said.
This, coupled with the organization’s recent research on child bereavement, pushed The Grief Center to reach out to Mancos Schools, she said.
Since then, the endeavor has been a collaborative effort with the school.
The Grief Center was selected as one of six grief organizations nationwide to participate in research contributing to the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model, published by Judi's House/the JAG Institute and funded by The New York Life Foundation.
The model analyzes the number of estimated children who will lose a parent or sibling in different locations, Austin said. The Grief Center finished two years of research for the project this summer.
Nationally, the organization found that one in 14 children will lose a parent or sibling by the time they are 18, Austin said. In Southwest Colorado, that number is, on average, one in 12, but is higher in some parts of the region.
The Grief Center serves six counties: Montezuma, La Plata, Dolores, Archuleta, San Juan County, Colorado and San Juan County, New Mexico.
“The’re all experiencing high rates of death and loss,” she said.
The Grief Center is willing to create opportunities for individuals to receive counseling services beyond the run of the program if they need them. Austin said that it is important that the services be offered through the holiday season – not just through the beginning of the district’s winter break – because the holidays can exacerbate feelings of grief.
Austin said the district has banded together to offer the counseling,
“I don’t see always that whole district involvement,” she said.
The board of education requested a third party audit of district COVID-19 practices – which had recently concluded, Superintendent Todd Cordrey said. The Montezuma County Health Department made physical health recommendations, while San Juan BOCES suggested counseling after evaluating social-emotional effects of the pandemic on students and their learning, he said.
Counseling will help mitigate anxiety levels that have risen the past two years, Cordrey said. This program will give them the opportunity to participate in counseling sessions that they might not have had otherwise.
The school district is absorbing the costs so that the sessions will be free to staff and students, he said.
“We just want to do our best to be good employers and to support our community,” he said.
Cordrey sent a link about the counseling to staff, who could then fill out a form of interest that would go directly to Austin. District staff have worked to identify students who may be struggling and set up subsequent meetings with counselors to initiate participation in the counseling, with parent permission.
Last month, the district engaged in suicide prevention efforts for National Suicide Awareness month, including a fundraiser that involved the selling of blue paper hearts decorated with the message “We are the village.”
Help for people having suicidal thoughts or for those who fear a person is considering suicide:
Axis Care Hotline:
24/7 local response to your crisis & behavioral health needs: (970) 247-5245
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:
(800) 273-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 741741
RED NACIONAL DE PREVENCIÓN DEL SUICIDIO:
FORT LEWIS COLLEGE COUNSELING CENTER:
BOYS TOWN HOTLINE:
(877) 542-7233 or safe2tell.org
COLORADO CRISIS SUPPORT LINE:
(844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 or online at coloradocrisisservices.org to access a live chat available in 17 languages. The line has mental-health professionals available to talk to adults or youths 24 hours a day.
AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION:
Colorado chapter information available at afsp.org/chapter/afsp-colorado/
A website for adult men contemplating suicide is available at mantherapy.org