UPDATE: CHC's intensive outpatient program will officially open on May 8. The nonprofit is currently accepting referrals.
A donation from an anonymous Palo Alto resident has enabled Children's Health Council to address a "critical gap in teen mental health services" by opening what the nonprofit says will be the city's first intensive outpatient program for teenagers with moderate to severe mental-health issues.
Children's Health Council (CHC), which provides a range of mental-health and educational services to local youth and families, plans to open the after-school therapy program on its main campus in Palo Alto in April, according to an announcement. The anonymous donation will be used to fund the program for its first year, paying for "startup costs" and financial assistance for families who need it, CHC said.
The 12-week program will serve teenagers from 14 to 18 years old struggling with depression, anxiety, self-harm or suicidal thoughts, and for whom regular outpatient therapy might not be working. Teens coming out of a psychiatric hospitalization also often transition into an intensive outpatient program.
CHC's program will offer individual, group and family therapy; psychiatric services; medication management; and components focused on teaching academic skills and mindfulness, the nonprofit said. Licensed adolescent psychiatrists and therapists will use dialectical behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy, two common approaches to treating mental-health disorders, to help the teens.
Teens will attend the program four afternoons a week so they can maintain their regular school routine, CHC said.
"The program covers the often overlooked but essential middle ground between weekly outpatient therapy and hospitalization, and provides transition support between the two," the press release states.
A recent Children's Health Council study found a "significant need" for a Palo Alto-based after-school therapy program for teenagers, the nonprofit said.
Currently, nearby options for teenagers and families seeking intensive outpatient services include Mountain View's El Camino Hospital, which runs the After-School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education (ASPIRE) program, Bay Area Children's Association in San Jose, Mills-Peninsula Health Services in San Mateo and Edgewood Center in San Carlos. El Camino recently expanded its ASPIRE program to serve middle school students and 18 to 25 years old in addition to high schoolers, increasing the program's capacity to 40 students.
Stanford Children's Health also recently announced plans to launch this year their own six-month after-school program for 13 to 17 year olds.
The Children's Health Council program will be able to accommodate up to eight teens on a rolling basis.
Children's Health Council intends to make the program "accessible and affordable to all teens, regardless of financial capacity," Executive Director Rosalie Whitlock said in the announcement. The program will be insurance-based and offer financial support to families.
The new after-school program is the latest piece in Children's Health Council's Teen Mental Health Initiative, launched last year to increase access to mental-health services and educate the community on youth suicide and related issues. As part of that initiative, the nonprofit is also offering free 30-minute consultations to parents who might be concerned about their teens' mental health.
"Parents are encouraged to call, even if they aren't certain whether their teen is exhibiting typical adolescent behavior or warning signs of something more serious," the nonprofit said.
Parents interested in scheduling a consultation can call 650-688-3625 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.