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Billings County School employee assistance program tabled

MEDORA -- After a lengthy discussion Wednesday night, the Billings County School Board decided to table a decision on whether to implement a new district employee assistance program.

Details of plans from three companies -- The Village, Midwest and St. Alexius -- were brought to the board with costs varying from $750 up to $4,500 annually. Each plan would offer various short-term services including mental health counseling, legal and financial counseling, addiction evaluation and crises management, among other services, with all offered on a confidential basis.

A limited number of counseling sessions and other assistance would be offered at no cost to the employee.

Board president Darren Baranko voiced a number of concerns with implementing such a program.

"I would be concerned if an employee came to us down the road and wanted more services," Baranko said. "With a plan like one of these, we're offering a taste, but there would be a limit. I'll be flat honest -- if an employee is showing serious issues with drugs or alcohol or what have you, I don't want to pay to get help, I would want the issue resolved."

Board member Lynn Arthaud opined that she would like to see such a program offered for a year and revisit its worth to the district after. The issue will come before the board again next month.

In other decisions, the board voted 4-0 (Baranko was not present for the vote) to move forward with district principal Denise Soehren's recommendation to hire a new part-time certified learning disabilities teacher for the remainder of the school year. The new hire would work two days per week.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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