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 steering committee, a smaller executive committee and chair to help make decisions and set direction.
In 2012-2013, PSN had reached a crossroads. The City of Palo Alto allocated $2 million in funding from the Stanford University Hospital Development Agreement to fund the collaborative’s work. The first Program Director was hired in the spring of 2012, and the work of the collaborative was led by that staff member along with the PSN Steering Committee Co-Chairs and the PSN Steering Committee. During early 2013, PSN embarked on a strategic planning process with the help of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. Key questions to be answered included what is the best, most effective way to utilize the $2 million in reaching youth and well as reaching some agreed upon clarity of the mission of PSN related to the balance of suicide prevention and developmental assets work as priorities. Under the recommendation of the PSN Program Director and Co-Chairs, and the backing of the PSN Steering Committee Finance Committee, the PSN Steering Committee voted to employ CompassPoint to help PSN re-clarify its course, recharge its mission and ultimately reorganize its structure to better serve the community and effect change. Over the next eight months, CompassPoint led a process that included the Steering Committee, a working group of interested community members, key stakeholders, focus groups with youth, schools, faith community, among others; PSN came to develop the plan and structure.