Between August 2020 and February 2021, more than 100 students sought out counseling at La Entrada Middle School in Menlo Park, "Twice as many kids as we had seen in the past two years," said Executive Director Philippe Rey of Adolescent Counseling Services.
Sheltering in place and isolation have led to an increase in anxiety, depression and substance abuse in some local youth, he said.
And counseling services are running longer. ACS used to see clients for an average of 10 to 12 sessions. Since the pandemic 20 sessions per child is more the norm.
For more than a year most of the sessions have been done online, but last June, Rey says counselors realized that teletherapy didn't provide enough support for critical cases in the substance abuse program, so some clients have been receiving socially distanced help in person.
Until all ACS staffers are fully vaccinated, he predicts a hybrid model will continue with some in-person sessions and some teletherapy. One plus to teletherapy is it enables expansion that wasn't possible before, with some clients now being served in the Central Valley.
"Weathering the Storm" is the theme of ACS's upcoming virtual fundraiser on Wednesday, April 21, at noon. The event celebrates ACS's clients' resilience, and hopes to raise $140,000 for mental health services.
The nonprofit depends on donations from individuals, corporations, and government funding. The goal is to add more clinicians and outreach personnel to meet the increasing demand for services.
Register for the event here.
Founded 46 years ago, ACS is based in Redwood City with offices and meeting spaces spread out between San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. ACS serves thousands of people a year in four programs geared to youth ages 10 to 25 and their families.
Before the pandemic hit, the top concerns were preventing teenage suicide, educating youth about the health hazards of vaping and nicotine addiction, and offering support to the LGBTQQ+ community.
Rey joined the organization in 1998 and said he has watched the concerns grow over the years.
"Teens are dealing with increased stress. One of out of five suffer from a major emotional illness," he said.
"We make sure kids feel they belong and are heard. ACS saves lives; mental health providers foster healing."
ACS offers free individual and group counseling to students and their families at the Wellness Centers at La Entrada Middle School, Woodside High School in Woodside and Oxford Day Academy in East Palo Alto.
ACS's Community Counseling Program provides afternoon and evening sessions of individual and family therapy at various locations on a sliding pay scale. Its Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program also operates on a sliding pay scale and includes professional assessments, outpatient treatment and therapy.
In 2013 ACS added the Outlet Program to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth. Weekly meetings are scheduled for younger and older groups.
ACS has expanded its reach by offering educational sessions for parents and caregivers "of gender-expressive youth and youth who are exploring their gender identity," according to the website, www.acs-teens.org.
More information about ACS is also available by calling 650-424-0852.