A conversation with Monique Kane, Executive Director, Community Health Awareness Council
Tell us a little about your organization; where it is located, when it was founded, and how it operates.
CHAC was founded in 1973 by seven local community leaders and parents concerned about teen drug and alcohol use. Within a few years, the group knew that the problems affecting our children were greater than just drugs and alcohol and affected all school children, not just teenagers. They formed a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with the cities and school districts of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to address all the issues and risk factors that put K-12 children at greater risk of self destructive behavior.
Today, the JPA funding is less than 13% of CHAC's $2.3 million annual budget. The rest comes from individual donations, corporations, local businesses and nonprofits, Sunnyvale School District and Santa Clara County contracts.
CHAC provides counseling services on 31 school campuses - in all the public schools K-12 of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Sunnyvale School District, and operate an outpatient after-school treatment program for drugs and alcohol for youths who are not quite at the point of needing full-fledged rehabilitation. Other programs include a gang prevention program with the Mountain View Police Department, a mental health clinic and a First Five program with a family resource center to help parents of children from birth to age five, a Restorative Justice Program with intensive therapy sessions for youth with misdemeanors to help them to not re-offend and outreach and support services for LGBT youth through our Outlet Program.
Among other things our agency is a highly respected and sought after internship site for MA/MFT, MS/CSW and PhD interns. They receive excellent training and supervision. It takes 3000 hours of internship and training before interns can take the state exams to become licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, Clinical Social Workers or Clinical Psychologists.
What is the mission and key focus of CHAC?
CHAC's goal is to help children and families create healthy lives, make good choices and avoid self-destructive behaviors. We strive to help children and youth form good peer and family relationships, do well in school and to help parents develop positive parenting skills.
What programs or activities is the El Camino Hospital Community Benefit helping to fund?
Thanks to El Camino Hospital District we now have a partnership with the Sunnyvale schools. We were in two or three of the schools and they wanted us to expand - we are now in all ten schools. El Camino Hospital District also funds our Teen-Time/Tween-Time program in the Mountain View-Whisman School District, a program held at lunchtime to help youth develop healthy living and resiliency skills. And, a few years back they funded a CHAC Mobile to provide extra space for counseling because the need was so great. We were able to purchase an RV to make into two therapy rooms.
These programs make such a big difference. The other day I ran into two Sunnyvale teachers who were working in the classroom on a Saturday. They told me about a boy whose father had been diagnosed with cancer - the child was just falling apart. But after four weeks of working with a CHAC counselor he was able to focus and was back in the classroom. Our counselor helped him to build resiliency skills to manage his day in spite of his concern over his dad.
How has the funding made a difference for CHAC?
Thanks to El Camino Hospital District we are able to do things for which we simply didn't have the resources previously. We have been able to bring in more therapists and expand programs that are making a big difference in helping children and youth develop resiliency skills, express feelings in constructive ways and build self-confidence to be able to handle stresses of all kinds.
We work with children and youth across the full spectrum of economic circumstances. We see homeless children or those living with numerous people in a one bedroom apartment; we see affluent children and youth under tremendous academic stress, who are worried about getting into college. We see children at all economic levels whose parents have just been laid off or are going through divorce or sickness . . . or even in jail. I cannot emphasize enough how grateful we are to be able to expand our services to help children at such a critical point in their lives.
Monique Kane, MA, MFT, joined CHAC in 1986 to supervise the agency's interns, and then became its fulltime clinical director. She became the Executive Director in 2000. To learn more visit the CHAC website.
Note: El Camino Hospital District funds the CHAC TeenTalk Program at Mountain View-Whisman School District, Los Altos, and Sunnyvale and counseling services at all 10 Sunnyvale School District Schools.