Radha Jagannathan, clinical services director for the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC), went to a local bakery recently to pick up a cake for a co-worker who was retiring. The name CHAC was on the cake, prompting a bakery employee to ask, “Do you work at CHAC?” When she said yes, the bakery employee said, “I had CHAC in junior high and it saved my life.”
“I’ve heard that almost every time I go out there (in the community),” said Monique Kane, executive director of the Mountain View-based nonprofit. CHAC has provided counseling services for at-risk youth and families over the past 40 years. Its effectiveness has long earned the trust and respect of the Los Altos-Mountain View communities. CHAC has been a Town Crier Holiday Fund recipient since 2003.
The organization trains and supervises 80 or more interns at any given time, and supports 33 schools across Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View and Sunnyvale. With each intern handling anywhere between 10 and 30 cases, CHAC treats approximately 15,000 clients yearly.
Opened in 1973 to combat the emerging youth drug culture, CHAC addresses a wide range of problems – from anxiety-ridden students to bullying, alienation, broken families and substance abuse.
“We’re responsible for a lot of suicides that didn’t happen,” added clinical services associate director Rosine Ferber.
Whether through outreach to the schools or private conferences at their new headquarters on El Camino Real, CHAC staff and interns provide a safety net of health services on a sliding scale so that any individual or family can afford their help.
“I love the fact that we have an organization that can reach so many people,” Jagannathan said. She added that CHAC’s reputation draws the most highly qualified interns, eager to add the organization to their resumes.
There’s another major factor in CHAC’s success.
“We’re flexible,” said clinical supervisor Mary White. “We meet needs that arise in the community.”
CHAC supervisors noted that bullying – particularly online – and academic pressures have increased in recent years.
“Parents are pushing their kids so hard academically so they can go to good schools,” said clinical supervisor Michelle Manning. “The parents are, rightfully so, afraid that their kids are not going to make a living.”
CHAC’s move to its new location in July addressed a space need – the new headquarters is more than double the size of its previous location. And CHAC counselors are busier than ever – every room is put to use much of the time.
Financial constraints remain. Some programs have been suspended due to lack of funding. Looking ahead, Kane said one notable goal is transitioning CHAC’s board of directors into more of a fundraising board. She also wants to see stipends return to the interns.
For more information, visit chacmv.org.