Whatcom County Council funds Blaine school district behavioral health coach


In a unanimous decision during the September 26 Whatcom County Council meeting, the Blaine school district will receive $315,000 for a new behavioral health coach. 

The funding will come from the county’s behavioral health sales tax, and provide three years of salary for a brand new position, which is intended to help support teachers with students struggling with behavioral and mental health inside the classroom. The position will hopefully, according to the work statement, increase teacher capacity and decrease the frequency of disruptive student behaviors. 

Amid the announced layoffs of nearly 60 part and fulltime positions in the Blaine school district, superintendent Christopher Granger said that the new position would not exist without funding from the county behavioral health sales tax. 

“This is a position we’re adding to support our teachers and students that we would not have been able to fund locally,” Granger said. “We’re appreciative of the partnership we have with the county.”

The coach will work roughly a full-time position for the remainder of the 2023-24 school year, and through the 2025-26 school year before county funding runs out. 

While funding will be cut after that, Granger hopes that the three years of a fulltime staff member will better prepare teachers to assist students with behavioral problems. 

“Our teachers are working hard,” Granger said. “This is not a reflection of somebody not doing something well, it’s more like an additional support we can give to come work alongside a teacher.”

According to the Washington Department of Health’s (DOH) Healthy Youth Survey, a voluntary survey of 6th, 8th, and 10th graders around the state, the pandemic had an extremely negative effect on the mental health of teenagers across the state. 

One of the key points of the 2021 study, according to the DOH, was that teens want easier access to mental and behavioral health care at home and in the classroom. Granger hopes that this new position will not only help students in the short term, but also prepare teachers in the long term to deal with the behavioral problems that they are seeing on a daily basis. 

The $315,000 price tag for the new position comes just after the school district announced plans to cut 60 positions, but Granger said that funding for the specific behavioral health coach position is unique. 

“Obviously, nobody wants to be in a reduction situation, those are people that we care about,” Granger said. “But we know that student behavior is one of the issues that we hear from teachers and parents and students. So when we have a unique funding opportunity that allows us to meet the needs that have been identified by our stakeholders, it feels like a great opportunity.”

Since approval by council, the school district has not named any candidates for the new position.


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