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New support line available for students and staff at Bureau of Indian Education schools

School children playing outside in a canyon on a basketball court during recess.
U.S. Indian Affairs
Children of the Havasupai Tribe play outside at Havasupai Elementary School in Supai, Ariz., on Jan. 17, 2024. The school is funded by the Bureau of Indian Education.

The federal government has launched a new behavioral health call line for students and staff at tribal schools across the U.S., including dozens in the Mountain West.

The call line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education. Students and staff can connect with trained professionals by calling 1-844-ASK-BHWP (1-844-275-2497)

The agency says the line will mostly be staffed by Indigenous counselors who have experience serving Native communities. They will offer both immediate individual crisis support as well as scheduling for virtual counseling.

This added layer of support comes at a critical time, said Emily Haroz, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Indigenous Health who studies the implementation of mental health and suicide prevention programs.

“Across the board, we see inequities and mental health related outcomes among Indigenous groups, particularly Indigenous youth,” Haroz said. “And so having something really tailored to those communities is really important in order to make sure that the care that's provided is culturally congruent and also accessible.”

The behavioral health line will serve 183 tribal schools funded by the bureau. In the Mountain West, most of them are in New Mexico (45), followed by Nevada (2), Utah, (2), Idaho (2) and Wyoming (1).

The support line is part of the Bureau of Indian Education’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Program. It aims to provide Indigenous-focused, evidence-based and trauma-informed support services to meet the mental, cultural, spiritual, emotional and social needs of Indigenous communities served by the agency.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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