During the summer 2009, School District staff developed a 14-point action plan to address the student, parent and teacher activities that they felt were necessary for the start of the school year and to make sure that systems were in place for ongoing support throughout the year. At the same time, local mental health professionals were forming a group soon to be known as Health Care Alliance in Response to Adolescent Depression (HEARD); City officials and Caltrain addressed safety at the railroad crossing; an interfaith group was forming to help enhance community connectedness; Caltrain, who operate the trains that pass through Palo Alto, began meeting with several groups throughout the area eager to support the community prevention efforts; and a task force was being considered for Santa Clara County. In addition, offers of help and suggestions for action were coming to the School District, Caltrain and City staff from local and national experts.
School District and City staff decided to bring everyone interested in helping together. A meeting was held in September with invitations to local agencies, non-profits, physicians, parents, School District and City staff. Both the City Manager and the district Superintendent attended. The initial group decided to keep meeting and to form a more formal Community Task Force; later called Project Safety Net (PSN). This name was chosen to reflect the integrated system of strategies that together form a safety net for youth and teens in the community.
In the PSN meetings, the group reviewed the original School District 14-point list of action items for suicide prevention, intervention and education and added an additional 8 strategies for a total of 22 strategies. Each strategy would later have a PSN agency, groups and/or individuals identified as responsible parties for specific initiatives. These activities continued to be refined as the group met and individual agencies and community members chose to participate and contribute in their area of influence. All 22 strategies were categorized as education, prevention or intervention with seven strategies identified as requiring immediate attention. The set of strategies described in this report come from the numerous experts consulted, from literature reviewed on suicide prevention and from the wealth of knowledge and experience from existing youth supporting agencies, non-profits and individuals in the Palo Alto community. As PSN members continued to meet the group continued to grow as more community members wanted to get involved. Due to the size of the evolving task force a need quickly emerged to have a smaller executive committee and chair to help make decisions and set direction. A Steering Committee was established and consists of the following individuals:
- Palo Alto Unified School District – Brenda Carrillo (Co-Chair)
- City of Palo Alto – Community Services Department – Rob de Geus
- Adolescent Counseling Services – Roni J. Gillenson
- City of Palo Alto – Community Services Department – Minka van der Zwaag (Co-Chair)
- Kara Grief Counseling – Michael Donohue
- Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital/Stanford University Dept. of Psychiatry– Shashank V. Joshi, MD
- Palo Alto Human Relations Commission – Ray Bachetti
- Developmental Assets Coalition – Terry Godfrey
- PTA Council – Sigrid Pinsky
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation – Becky Beacom
- Parent Representative – Pat Markevitch
- Parent Advocate – Kathleen Blanchard
- Youth Community Service – Leif Erickson
A matrix illustrating the Education, Prevention and Intervention strategies alongside the broad community support and their area of influence can be seen in Appendix A. This Action Matrix (Appendix A) illustrates the PSN focus on leveraging the wealth of community resources in a coordinated manner where individuals and groups with specific expertise and influence in one or more strategic initiatives can coordinate their efforts for maximum efficacy.