At long last, Palo Alto will have a mental health center where teens can walk in for help  

Clinic expected to open with psychiatric, other wellness services in May 2020

A yearslong effort to open a first-of-its-kind youth mental health center in Palo Alto reached a major milestone on Tuesday: approval of a lease for a physical space on Middlefield Road.

The Board of Supervisors approved a five-year lease for about 5,200 square feet of office space at 2741 Middlefield Road, a small retail center near Colorado Avenue.

This will be the future home of Allcove, a walk-in mental health clinic inspired by Australian centers that provide support services, education and other wellness resources at little to no cost to youth ages 12 to 25. It's expected to open by May.

"These innovative services, developed in consultation with the youth of our community, are important components of a continuum of mental health care that will hopefully bring critical early interventions services to our community," Steven Adelsheim, director of the Stanford University Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing, said in an announcement.

Adelsheim has been working with local mental health professionals, county staff and youth advocates to bring Allcove to life since 2016, spurred in part by a string of teenage deaths by suicide in Palo Alto. The county is also opening an Allcove site in San Jose, which it expects to be a "national prototype for international visitors, funders, and elected officials to tour."

The centers are meant to be one-stop shops for young people with mild to moderate mental health issues, from breakups, anxiety and academic stress to more severe mental illness. Substance abuse treatment, peer support and employment and educational support will also be available to teens.

The organizers describe Allcove as the first youth mental health center of its kind in the United States.

"Time after time, the saddest part of the story is that a kid didn't reach out earlier, didn't have the opportunity to get help when they really needed it," Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian said. "The appeal of programs like Allcove is that they're designed to engage youngsters who are struggling long before they hit a crisis point."

Stanford Medicine will provide psychiatric services at both the Palo Alto and San Jose locations, and Stanford will also provide primary care services in Palo Alto.

Jake Carreno, a Gunn High School senior who serves on a youth advisory group for Allcove, said he's hopeful the center will help alleviate the stigma teenagers feel in reaching out for help when they're struggling.

"It's really important for youth to know Allcove is a space where no matter what you're dealing with, you can drop in and talk to someone," he said. "You don't necessarily have to be diagnosed with something or know exactly what's going on. You can ... seek help no matter how big or small what you're dealing with is."

Carreno struggled to find mental health support as a sophomore when he fell into a depression after his parents got divorced. He went to Gunn's wellness center, but had to recount his story to several different counselors due to turnover. He eventually found an outside therapist through his doctor.

"It would have been nice to know there was one place I could go to that would handle it properly," Carreno said. "I remember not really knowing where to go."

The Board of Supervisors allocated $2.1 million for the Palo Alto lease and related improvements. Finding a suitable site that met the space requirements for the clinic in Palo Alto proved difficult; the county reviewed 30 potential sites and toured eight.

The Middlefield Road site is centrally located, near public transportation and offered a "competitive" rent for Palo Alto, according to a staff report. The first year of rent at the space will cost just under $268,000. The lease will run through October 2024 and includes two five-year extension options.

The clinic will be designed and operated with strong youth input, including from the 24-member youth advisory group (which selected the name Allcove).

Local and national statistics drive the importance of a mental health center like Allcove. One in five adolescents has a diagnosable mental disorder but less than half of adolescents with such disorders received any kind of treatment in the last year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Adolescent Health. A National Center for Children in Poverty report found that there are only about 8,000 people under the age of 25 years old using mental health services in Santa Clara County, while data suggests that among youth aged 11 to 17 alone, over 30,000 youth, should be accessing services.

"Local teens need these services now; we can't get it done soon enough," Simitian said.

The county is also working to build an adolescent inpatient psychiatric unit at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose to address a longtime dearth of hospitalization options for local teens in mental health crisis, who are most often sent beyond the county's borders for inpatient psychiatric treatment.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


17 people like this
Posted by Downfall
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 22, 2019 at 5:28 pm

I am very excited to read this. Being fiscally conservative the times that I think the city of Palo Alto or county of Santa Clara are spending money on worthwhile projects are few and far between, but I am very, very glad to see money being spent on this project as it is desperately needed. Let's hope the execution on the idea goes smoothly.

8 people like this
Posted by careful
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 22, 2019 at 8:06 pm

When you fill out the paperwork, it becomes part of your permanent medical record.
Explanations will be necessary for any future security clearance, sensitive job position,
or certain permits and licensing.

11 people like this
Posted by Philippe Rey
a resident of Mayfield
on Oct 22, 2019 at 8:09 pm

Adolescent Counseling Services looks forward to partnering with Alcove to provide substance misuse treatment to local youth and families as well as needed support to our LGBTQ+ youths! We have been providing counseling support to the Palo Alto community for 45 years now. We know community! We are community!

7 people like this
Posted by insurance?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2019 at 11:45 pm

Will Allcove accept insurance, or will the teens' families need to pay out-of-pocket?

2 people like this
Posted by Keri
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 23, 2019 at 12:04 am

Keri is a registered user.

Terrific news! Thank you Dr Adelsheim for your years of work to make this happen!

13 people like this
Posted by wish i could do it over
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 23, 2019 at 6:08 pm

as a 2016 Gunn alum who had a really difficult time finding adequate mental health care after anxiety/depression/extenuating circumstances, I'm so glad that our community is finally investing in our youth and giving them the tools they need to maintain their mental health and wellness. I just wish this was done a lot sooner, or when I was in school - would have made my quality of life and probably life in general substantially better. but I'm glad other Palo Alto teens won't have to go through what I went through.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

From Tokyo to Cupertino: Afuri Ramen's first California location debuts tonight
By Elena Kadvany | 2 comments | 3,081 views

Disposing of Disposables
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 1,327 views

Couples Counseling, Al Pacino Style
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,184 views