Come the 2017-18 school year, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) students at the middle and high school levels will benefit from the support provided to them by new mental health professionals serving PAUSD secondary schools. The School-Based Counseling Proposal Review Committee -- comprised of more than 20 district staff members including mental health specialists as well as students -- recently engaged in a thorough all-day review process to select and recommend a new provider. After a comprehensive review process, Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY) was chosen as the service provider for recommendation to the PAUSD Board of Education from a total of three organizations that responded to the school district’s Request for Proposal (RFP). The contract for $467,040.64 will be presented before the PAUSD Board of Education this spring.
“The dedication of the review committee and the detail by which each proposal was reviewed makes me very confident that our Board will make a decision that is focused on providing the very best service to our students and families, in collaboration with the meaningful services already provided by the district and our community,” said Jordan Middle School Principal Katie Kinnaman, a member of the review committee. Jordan students along with students from J.L. Stanford and Terman middle schools would benefit from the services provided as would students from Gunn and Palo Alto high schools. For that reason, the school district included students as part of the review process. One student described her experience saying, “Through this process, students were able to voice their opinions and concerns with the wellness efforts. As someone evaluating the RFPs, I really took note of the organizations and how they reacted and addressed the issues facing the Paly community. I wanted them to not only acknowledge the issues in our community that surround mental health, but identify solutions to solve them.”
In addition to CASSY, two other organizations responded to the RFP:
- Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY) = $467,040.64
- Uplift Family Services = $874,739
- Family and Children’s Services = (Option 1) $762,260 (Option 2) $541,259
- The school district’s former provider, Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS), did not respond to the RFP
“PAUSD is grateful to all organizations that submitted a proposal for their comprehensive and thoughtful applications to provide comprehensive services to our students,” said Dr. Brenda Carrillo, the school district’s director of wellness and support services, thanking both the organizations as well as the committee members for their commitment to student well-being.
The committee’s recommendation for CASSY to deliver school based counseling services at the five secondary schools was based on a strong proposal that outlined the following benefits:
- Licensed staff are able to offer comprehensive services handling complex student needs and supporting students during a crisis.
- Staff are permanent employees and this continuity of staff will lead to more integrated relationships with students and school communities.
- CASSY only provides school based mental health counseling for youth--it’s the organization’s primary focus and therefore they have a high level of expertise. They offer a school based model with a focus on short-term counseling, with longer term counseling as needed for students.
- CASSY’s model more closely aligns with elementary school models and provide greater continuity of care.
- CASSY demonstrated a keen awareness of the specific issues that PAUSD students face and offered comprehensive approaches to address these challenges.
- Costs for CASSY appear reasonable when compared to other RFP applications, supporting both a programmatic and fiscally responsible decision.
If approved, the contract with CASSY would increase the cost of services from $230,000 to $467,040. Previously, the district paid $130,000 and the City of Palo Alto paid approximately $100,000 for mental health services provided by Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS). The district is grateful for the partnership with the City of Palo Alto and will seek continued funding for this important service to its students.
The selection committee believes the new provider model will help with current challenges of waiting lists and integration with school based teams as well as assist in building ongoing meaningful relationships with students throughout their school experience as CASSY already serves 8 of 12 PAUSD elementary schools. This will lead to further alignment of the district’s K12 services. This continuity of care for students served by CASSY will afford the district with more opportunities for communication, referrals, and comprehensive approaches as students move from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school.
PAUSD parents will have the opportunity to learn more about the services CASSY plans to provide at back to school nights, by visiting the school district’s website, by reaching out to CASSY directly or by contacting the PAUSD Department of Wellness and Support Services.
The school district’s provider selection process was initiated with public notices in late March. The Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the contract at its May 23, 2017, Regular Board Meeting with a scheduled vote for approval in June. If approved, the contract with CASSY would take effect on July 1, 2017 with services ready to be offered by the start of the 2017-18 school year.