The Community Health Awareness Council offers mental health services for families and individuals.

• Mission: In the 48 years since three local parents met around a kitchen table to form the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) as a grassroots, community-supported mental health agency, it has grown significantly, serving more than 10,000 adults and children in 2020, many from underserved communities with dire need.

Today, CHAC continues to carry out its mission of improving lives and strengthening communities through access to comprehensive and culturally responsive mental health services in northern Santa Clara County.

• 2021 update: Since the onset of the pandemic, CHAC’s services have been needed to help families cope with the stressors of economic impacts, being forced to stay at home in close quarters and dealing with the multiple roles suddenly required of parents.

An increased demand for live translation services due to distance learning and tele-health standards required clinicians to collaborate effectively with non-English-speaking parents/guardians. CHAC added in-person Spanish translation capacity as well as a telephone-­based, real-time translation service that provided 240 languages.

Although some students returned to the classroom later last year, the shelter-in-place orders necessitated that all CHAC counseling and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs and services be provided via tele-health for the entire year. CHAC’s therapists provided tele-health services directly to their young clients as well as increasing parental support. CHAC staff developed “PLUGGED IN,” a program to support the social and emotional needs of students and their families, as well as nine videos to support students and families with SEL activities. CHAC staff also created 34 YouTube videos to provide students fun, independent activities without parental involvement.

Last fall, CHAC started a pilot youth group counseling project, QUILTBAG Connection, to promote wellness and mental health for the LGBTQ+ youth.

In the spring, CHAC completed a pilot of an arts-based enrichment and expression program, Back Together, to help reduce the anxiety of students returning to campus. The results were overwhelmingly positive; the program was implemented in all Los Altos School District classrooms in the fall.

In the past three months, CHAC has seen a dramatic increase in students seeking support for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, family struggles and, in some cases, suicidal thinking.

“All these concerns – to name a few – underscore that accessible and affordable mental health services in our community must continue to be made available for us to be able to effectively navigate these difficult times.” said Marsha Deslauriers, CHAC executive director.

• Why the Holiday Fund is needed: CHAC’s mental health counseling services are available to individuals, families and couples in crisis on an income-based, sliding-fee payment plan. No one is turned away, regardless of ability to pay.

Donations enable CHAC to reach more than 10,000 individuals and families each year, including those who are caught in between with incomes too great to qualify for Medi-Cal yet for whom the fees for much-needed private counseling services are out of reach. Support from the 2021 Holiday Fund will enable CHAC to continue to help children and families thrive, as well as build healthy futures and resilient communities through an enduring commitment to providing comprehensive, culturally responsive mental health services.

Community Health Awareness Council

Location: 590 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View

Founded: 1973

Annual budget: $5 million

Staff: 35