Tue09302014

Community

CHAC’s healing mission continues with relocation, program expansion


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

CHAC employees and volunteers anticipate moving to more spacious headquarters next year.

A mother discussed how she and her son benefited from Well Within, a new teen substance-abuse treatment and prevention program sponsored by the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC).

“We seem to connect better,” she said of the program, which involves entire families delving into core problems that trigger substance abuse. “I understand where he is at better, and that seems to soften my approach, which makes him less belligerent around the family.”

CHAC therapist Veronica Foster, who founded the program, cited excellent outcomes from the 19 families participating in Well Within over the past year.

“We’ve had a lot of great feedback,” said Foster, whose comprehensive program offers “family therapy wrapped around recovery.”

Well Within is among many successful programs offered by CHAC, which next year celebrates its 40th anniversary of providing counseling, therapy, support groups and other mental health services to at-risk youth and their families.

The Mountain View-based nonprofit agency served more than 11,700 clients over the past year across more than 30 local schools.

CHAC officials expanded their territory in the 2011-2012 school year to include 10 schools in the Sunnyvale Unified School District. The resulting statistics were astonishing and validating: student suspensions and expulsions dropped 66 percent and disciplinary referrals declined 78 percent during the first year of the program.

“These were eye-popping results for us,” said Paul Schutz, CHAC development director. “We had always been in Mountain View/Los Altos schools and had never been able to do (comparisons) before and after.”

Started by 10 families in 1973, CHAC has grown to include approximately 40 professional full- and part-time staff and more than 80 interns pursuing clinical psychology.

The organization handles a wide range of problems, from drug abuse to bullying, depression and stress caused by oversized expectations to succeed academically and otherwise.

“We have one of the most sought-after programs (for interns) in the Bay Area,” Schutz said. Last year’s doctorate program drew 114 candidates, only an estimated 20 of whom were selected.

“Another reason CHAC is well regarded – it really makes an effort to meet the needs that come up in the community,” said Carrie Carstens, public relation manager for CHAC.

As an example, Carstens cited Tween Talk, a program proposed by students in which middle-schoolers meet during lunch to discuss problems.

A big change looms for CHAC in 2013. Staffers are leaving their home office of more than 25 years at 711 Church St. for a new location two blocks away with twice the square footage. The property comes via a land-swap agreement with the owner of a neighboring property.

Executive Director Monique Kane said the swap allows CHAC to move from a 3,408-square-foot facility valued at $1.1 million to a 7,330-square-foot facility valued at $2.8 million.

“We are dubbing this exciting and timely opportunity as ‘The Miracle on El Camino,’” she said of the new 590 W. El Camino Real site at the corner of Castro Street.

CHAC staff expects to move into the new property by July. Staffers plan to undertake a fundraising campaign beginning Jan. 1 for the $167,570 in building upgrades that are required.

Schutz said Town Crier Holiday Fund proceeds help pay for intern stipends and scholarships for families in need who cannot afford fees, even those on the sliding scale that CHAC offers.

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