Simle Middle School’s holistic approach to behavioral health helps students succeed

Good Day Dakota

Simle Middle School in Bismarck was recognized at Recovery Reinvented last month. Simle’s holistic system of care for students caught the attention of the First Lady and Governor Burgum. And it’s all due to the foundation that was set in place years ago when they started to see more and more students coming to the office with the same issues.

Simle’s Principal Russ Riehl says, “We often think of when students misbehave, we think of consequences. Our school has really focused on getting away from that model and really focus on interventions.”

Two years ago, Simle Middle School received a behavioral health grant. A large part of the grant funding went toward training every employee in the school to identify unmet needs in students.

“So whether students are dealing with addiction or a family member fighting addiction
behavioral health, depression, isolation in this current situation we’re in, we feel we have
that whole continuum of care,” says Riehl.

Since 2019, two days a week a clinician from Sanford has been available for students, families and staff members. Russ says this wouldn’t be possible without partnerships in the community.

He explains, “We have partners with Sanford, we have partners with united way, we have a partnership with Lutheran social services, Midwest Dairy Council. We have a great relationship with the juvenile court, the Police Youth Bureau here in Bismarck.”

To keep kids in school, keep them safe, give them support, and give them the skills to work through some of life’s tough issues. This system helped them achieve the Pioneer Award at this year’s Recovery Reinvented.

Russ says, “The piece that’s really been neat with getting the award from the Governor and the First Lady has been the recognition of the Pioneer Award. So what’s we’ve been able to do is develop
some systems and now share with other schools.”

A system that will help students have healthier futures. Russ says Simle has been able to help schools in Barnes County and in Dunseith work on developing similar systems as well after receiving the next round of grants.

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