District 204 mental health program well underway thanks to $1 million in grants

First counseling sessions at Neuqua Valley scheduled for today

  • A grant is helping fund the Wildcat Wellness mental health initiative at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville.

    A grant is helping fund the Wildcat Wellness mental health initiative at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville. Daily Herald file photo

Updated 2/8/2023 6:24 AM

Bolstered by $1 million in grant money, the Indian Prairie Cares mental health program is well underway in District 204.

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 officials provided an update to the school board on Monday, highlighting the many ways families can find help through free district resources. They also showed how the program is expanding thanks to new funding sources.


District 204, the state's fourth-largest school district, serves 26,000 students in Aurora, Bolingbrook, Naperville and Plainfield.

"At any point in time, any family member can request access to an appointment, and the follow-up will come from our project management team," said Tara Bell, an instructional specialist in the district.

"If there's an appointment available, they will schedule that with the providers. Otherwise, we are maintaining a waitlist."

A $500,000 grant from Edward-Elmhurst Health provided the spark for Indian Prairie Cares, an initiative that began in November with free mental health clinics at Fischer and Granger middle schools and Georgetown and Longwood elementary schools.

Bell said 120 students have been served so far. Meanwhile, more than 350 appointments have been scheduled.

District officials also secured $500,000 in grants from the Illinois Department of Public Health to fund similar services at Neuqua Valley and Metea Valley high schools through the end of 2023.

Waubonsie Valley High School, Bell said, is served by the clinics at Fischer and Georgetown.

Part of the program's expansion includes the Wildcat Wellness initiative at Neuqua Valley. School officials stressed the importance of a comprehensive wellness program because students in need are getting younger. In addition, the needs are becoming more serious, and they're becoming more complex.

The first counseling sessions at Neuqua Valley are scheduled for today. The program will expand to Metea Valley in March.

"We have some outstanding people that already work with many of our students," said Neuqua Valley Principal Lance Fuhrer. "But we wanted to make sure that Wildcat Wellness was a great complement to the many things there."

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