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Boulder schools deploy trauma response teams to counsel kids after Marshall Fire

Boulder Valley School District's trauma response teams have met with nearly 1,000 students since the fire.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Memories aren’t always easy to forget.

"We’ve heard a lot about the wind," said Tammy Lawrence, director of student support services at Boulder Valley School District (BVSD). "It brings back lots of visions of what happened that day."

The healing from the Marshall Fire is far from over. Inside schools located in the neighborhoods where homes were lost, trauma rooms help students cope with the pain the fire caused. Special trauma response teams from BVSD have been working with families for months.

"It had a huge impact," said Katie McGee, mental health advocate for BVSD. "It’s been devastating for so many families."

The Marshall Fire left a path of destruction. Four and a half months later, McGee is still answering questions. Her team has worked with more than 1,000 students, parents and teachers since the fire to help them cope with the loss and trauma. 

She helps them through the pain, inside rooms in schools they call trauma rooms. 

Sometimes kids choose to reenact what they remember from the fire.

"They would build up these structures and they would put the animals in there and protect them, because we had so many kids who lost a beloved pet," McGee said. "That’s a lot of grief for them. Our pets are part of our families. Then what they would do is knock down the structure and destroy that."

The counseling program will continue over the summer while school is on break and into the next school year. Nearly 150 therapists and mental health advocates made up the trauma response teams. They came together from three different school districts to help.   

Mental health advocates from St. Vrain School District and Adams 12 traveled to help the BVSD community. Impact on Education, the BVSD foundation, provided funds to help make the extra help possible. 

"We had 995 students seen and many of them multiple times," Lawrence said. "We just were there for them. Whatever they needed at that time, we were there for them. And now we continue to try and be there for them."

They're helping the students come to terms with the memories of that windy day in December.

"That is exactly what we’re hoping for, that they can look at this and say, wow, look at what I overcame and look at how I did that," McGee said. "Their mental health will be much better if they process it sooner rather than later."

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