Our mission is to de-stigmatize mental health services and make supporting students’ social and emotional well-being the norm in our local schools. We want to provide all students with the continuity of support they need, from the first day of kindergarten until they graduate from high school, to be successful in school and in life.
In a given year, 20% of young people experience mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, academic stress, low self-esteem, and substance abuse. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these kids do not receive the treatment they need. Left untreated, many teens contemplate suicide, the third leading cause of death for young people today.
The good news is that quality treatment can help. The challenge, however, is connecting these kids with the treatment they need. Families often find it difficult to find and pay for qualified professionals, let alone getting these kids to the therapist’s office. Studies show that students are far more likely to seek counseling when it is available at their school, especially if it is free.
We partner with schools to provide professional mental health services to students in their academic setting. Our therapists are conveniently located right on campus. All services are free to the student and their parents. With CASSY, there are no cost, transportation, or insurance barriers to prevent students from getting the help they need. CASSY has proven that when you put highly qualified postgraduate therapists on the school campus, students will come in and get help. In fact, 20-25% of the entire student body will come in. Some once or twice. Some every week for years. Being school-based is absolutely the key.
By removing the social and emotional obstacles that make it difficult to focus on academics, we give young people a chance to get the most out of the educational opportunities that are provided to them. When we improve students’ social and emotional wellbeing, academic achievement tends to follow.
CASSY (Counseling and Support Services for Youth) was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009. The agency continues to do incredible work, providing a year-round mental health safety net for over 33,000 students at 43 schools in San Mateo and Santa Clara County.
In the Fall of 2017, Liz Schoeben, CASSY Co-Founder, decided to take the CASSY concept to Southern California. We have created CASSY Southern California, A Project of The Giving Back Fund.
Building on CASSY’s mission and core principles, CASSY SoCal offers the highest commitment to supporting the social and emotional needs of the youth in the communities in Southern California.
Our initial partnership is with The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, providing support at their 10 elementary sites and two comprehensive high schools in the district.
We serve financially disenfranchised communities where free services at school are the only realistic way to reach kids. We also serve financially stable communities where many families have the resources, but other barriers such as stigma, transportation and insurance limits get in the way.
The only way to achieve our shared goals is to create a strong working relationship between our agency and the school. To do so, we set up shop right on campus and integrate the CASSY team with the school’s staff. Together, we create a mental health resource team that is as much a part of the school as the guidance department and special education.
We factor in the unique characteristics of a given school when creating any new program. For example, our staffing for a 2,000-student high school with a single site will be quite different from that for a district with a dozen elementary school sites. We have also found that bilingual therapists are essential for some schools.
We use experienced therapists to tackle our clients’ issues rather than using our clients’ issues to train inexperienced therapists. We believe the right approach is to pay for high quality therapists, mentor them in their professional growth and give them a long-term career path at CASSY.
We take great pride in improving the lives of the students we support. We will always see each case through whether we handle it internally, refer it out, or both. When there is a mental health crisis on campus, we will be there leading the way. We expect our partner schools to put us in charge and rely on our expertise.