MVLA’s mental health resources, explained

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

You don’t need to know all the details of the Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District’s mental health infrastructure to ask for help. For some, though, knowing what’s there in the first place might make it easier.

Here’s a guide to all the district’s mental health resources, and how to access them.

Note: Any person feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a crisis counselor, or text “HELLO” to 741741.

ASKING FOR HELP

TL;DR: Fill out this form.

The first step to accessing MVLA’s mental health resources is the student support form, which is intentionally broad and about “student support” in general, said William Blair, the district’s wellness coordinator.

“Students don’t have to know what it is they need, we just want to connect them with help,” Blair said. “So part of the goal was to create a student support referral form which includes personal issues, emotional issues, social services issues [and] academic issues, so that way it’s broader for everybody.”

Reasons for referral on the form include but are not limited to depression and anxiety, college stress, body image, peer conflict, eating habits and substance abuse.

It’s a sort of one-stop shop; a streamlined way for students to ask for help.

After a student — or friend, parent or teacher, who can preserve anonymity — fills out the form, the referral is sent to the campus’s intake coordinator, who meets with the student to determine which of the district’s resources will best serve them.

Blair said that parent or guardian consent is necessary for ongoing mental health services, but that there are minor consent laws that “allow for some flexibility in narrowly defined circumstances.”

SHORT-TERM CARE

TL;DR: The district offers a wide range of support through itself and partners.

Most of the services that the district offers are through partnerships with outside organizations, with the exception of the district’s own therapists who primarily treat students in special education programs.

In the 2020–2021 school year, the organization the district referred the most students to was the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC) — which offers short-term one-on-one and sometimes group therapy — followed by Uplift Family Services, which primarily treats students who are uninsured or on Medi-Cal, and also offers behavior management, family engagement and social services. The district’s own therapists took on a similar caseload to Uplift last year.

The district’s other partners include:

  • Stanford Children’s Health, which offers psychiatric fellows for students who don’t have outside psychiatrists, and the teen health van which offers general doctors’ appointments for teens who are uninsured or on Medi-Cal.
  • The Bill Wilson Center, which works with homeless and foster youth, offering temporary shelters and helping families complete the VI-SPDAT survey which helps determine eligibility for supportive housing opportunities.
  • The Community Services Agency, which offers social services support for low-income families that could include anything from legal services to food resourcing.
  • County of Santa Clara Behavioral Health Services, which offers a range of services that include support for substance abuse and domestic violence.
  • The Healthier Kids Foundation, which can help families qualify for Medi-Cal which opens access to other resources.

Blair said that general education students seeking short-term therapeutic support are most likely to be referred to CHAC, which offers short-term support during the school day. CHAC sessions typically last six to 12 weeks, although Blair said that the length can vary depending on the treatment goal.

The district also offers drop-in services during the school day, which an on-site MVLA therapist will handle if it’s an immediate crisis or safety concern, and the intake coordinator will handle otherwise.

LONG-TERM CARE

TL;DR: The district will work to support you even if your needs go beyond what it can offer through itself and its partners.

If a student needs something beyond what the district offers — whether because they need support during school breaks, would prefer to meet in the evenings or simply need longer-term care — the district will help connect the student with an outside clinician.

“Our goal will always be to support the student right here, right now,” Blair said. “We’re not going to let you fall … We’ll support them, [and] we’ll work with the family and the student to see what kind of long-term support we can find.”

Typically that means working with the family’s private insurance.

“But there may be a backlog,” Blair said. “So, right now, Kaiser is like, ‘It’s November, December, before you can get an appointment.’ So part of the idea of the short-term, six to 12 weeks, is we’re going to get you to that point, get you to the right handoff.”

If families don’t have private insurance but qualify for Medi-Cal, Uplift Family Services offers long-term support for up to a year.

At the end of the day, Blair said that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and that the district will meet any student with their unique needs.

“You don’t have to know what the problem is,” Blair said. “You just need to come and get support — and know that there is support.”

PREVENTATIVE CARE

TL;DR: Wellness initiatives — paired with intervention measures — are also a key part of ensuring student wellbeing.

Also key to supporting students are wellness initiatives, which Blair said are more about preventing or softening future issues than treating existing ones.

That could be anything from Spartans Pause and wellness weeks, which offer self-care activities like yoga, stress ball making and interacting with therapy animals during lunch; promoting mindfulness exercises in the classroom; and even school clubs and extracurriculars.

“We all need to feel a sense of belonging,” Blair said. “That social connection is super important in all the preventative work.”

The oft-eye-roll-inducing HAERT program the district used last year — which taught students preventative strategies like mindfulness exercises and gratitude journaling — was a preventative measure that Blair said was misunderstood.

“Folks were saying, ‘Giving us preventative strategies isn’t what we need; we need mental health intervention,’” Blair said. “But they’re two very different things … Part of this challenge is when we say ‘mental health,’ what do we mean? Are we talking about mental illness? Are we talking about our mental well-being, which is different?”

Ultimately, preventative and intervention services work in tandem to create the district’s student support net.

“We’re all going to face the rocky waters downstream,” Blair said. “Our goal is to go upstream and give you the preventative strategies and skills when the water’s calm … Because when the rocky waters hit … you then have the tools, and we’re still going to be on the shore screaming, ‘Hey, if you need help, here’s the life raft, grab this rope and we’ll bring you in.’”

Any person feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a crisis counselor, or text “HELLO” to 741741. The Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District’s student referral form can be found here.

One thought on “MVLA’s mental health resources, explained

  1. A lot of people don’t know about the resources on campus; much appreciation for this article for helping share them.

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