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Counselors help Billings students deal with deaths of classmates

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Posted at 11:06 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 12:06:14-05

The Billings community, including a local counseling group, came together Thursday night to show support and help students overcome their grief.

This happened following the traffic accident deaths of three Billings West students last Friday and a Billings Senior student more than three weeks ago.

Some parents have seen a need to counsel and give high school students a chance to connect.

The Movement Montana dance studio hosted the session.

TV cameras were not allowed inside to allow students to be open, but counselors did agree to speak with MTN News outside the room.

"One of the biggest things is, it's okay to feel however they feel," said Erin Rodriguez, Selah Clinical Services owner/therapist. "It's okay for them to be confused. It's okay for them to feel lonely. It's okay for them to be sad. And to reach out to talk to friends, talk to family, talk to anybody, and just try to work through these feelings and build coping skills, and just be there for each other. This is their first time for some of them in dealing with something so significant. So we just want to make sure that they know where to turn. "

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KTVQ photo

Rodriguez said some students are afraid to drive.

Capt. Kent O'Donnell of the Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office reminded kids of traffic safety and also provided some guidance.

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KTVQ photo

"Law enforcement get to wear many many hats, and one of those is a counselor," said O'Donnell. "We're kind of trying to show them that we're here to support them, to help them to see us as people too and not to be afraid of law enforcement. We're just here to help. Hopefully in this private intimate setting like this, that we get the chance to kind of talk one on one and reassure the kids that hopefully they reassure each other a little bit that just because of one event, you don't have to change your entire life, but you should learn from it and bring some safety things back in. Maybe that you were forgetting or you were cutting some corners or, you know, just run in front and at lunch at school, not put your seatbelt on just little things that we all need little reminders about every now and then."

Rodriguez said this is not the end of the help and encourages others in the community to do the same.

The Great American Bagel owner John Smith, a former deputy, helped bring about the session.

Jersey Mikes, TopZ, Deleware Construction and Movement Montana also contributed.

Lucas Stevens, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) and Alison Watt, LCPC AND Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC), also helped with the discussion.

Rodriguez is also a licensed counselor.