Stanford partners with community to develop youth mental health center

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Together with Santa Clara County and community partners, Stanford University is developing a mental health clinic for youths 12-25 years of age to help area youths get the care they need, with the goal of providing these services free of charge.

According to Steven Adelsheim, clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the clinic will be based on the Australian “headspace model” and include both physical and mental health care, as well as help with addiction-related issues and schoolwork.

The new clinic will be the first to use the system in the United States, following the example of programs in Australia, Ireland, Denmark and Israel.

Adelsheim hopes that this combination of services will allow young patients to avoid the stigma attached to seeking mental health care either from school counselors or other sources. He believes that direct marketing to youth will assist in breaking down the stigma around seeking mental health care.

“The idea is to create a comfortable place for young people, to walk in potentially on their own or with others to get care for stress from anxiety, after a breakup, struggling over exams, feeling depressed or struggling with [gender identity] issues,” Adelsheim said.

In its early stages, the clinic will most likely focus on aiding those with milder needs, redirecting those who require more care to services better suited to their needs. To help create the clinic, the University is cooperating with organizations such as Uplift Family Services, Project Safety Net and Momentum for Mental Health, among others.

“What I love about [the headspace model], having seen other models, [is that it acts as] a one-stop shop that is defined and designed and owned by the individuals who will actually be utilizing the service,” said Mary Gloner, executive director of Project Safety Net.

Gloner described Project Safety Net’s role as a partner as multi-faceted, including giving technical assistance, raising awareness, sharing relevant information with the community and advising the clinic.

The University will also create youth advisory groups to collect input from the demographic the clinic is meant to serve. Young people will have a say in “planning, site development, the look of the place, and decisions about some of the services,” Adelsheim said. He cited the community naming contest for the clinic, whose outcome is currently undecided, as an example of how the community was already involved.

“Really at the core of these programs is a youth voice and youth support and youth involvement,” Adelsheim maintained.

This past June, Santa Clara County agreed to contribute $200,000 per year to the clinic for three years. The money will fund two positions to be filled in January: a youth development specialist and a position “around the supported education and employment piece.” The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is also contributing funding for the clinic alongside the county.

Adelsheim explained that a lack of national health insurance is an obstacle to bringing headspace to the U.S., a barrier that countries with already established headspace programs didn’t have to face.

The next steps, Adelsheim said, will be to set up a site for the clinic, gather staff and acquire additional financial backing. The clinic does not yet have a set opening date. Despite the work to be done before it begins operating, Adelsheim remains optimistic about the positive effect it will have on local youth.

“I’ve been a real believer in early intervention, and that if we can find young people early and help link them to early services, they will do better, just like for any other medical condition,” he said.

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