Paly has chosen Counseling and Support Services for Youth (CASSY) to replace Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS) as its official counseling service after ACS failed to reapply for a contract at the end of the 2016-17 school year.
At the time of the decision, CASSY was the provider for counseling services at Palo Alto Unified School District’s (PAUSD) elementary and middle schools, which played a major role in the decision, according to senior and climate and social justice commissioner Claire Billman.
“One thing we have to look towards when picking our program is long term effect on the District,” Billman said. “CASSY is currently at the elementary and middle school level, and it was high schools that had the gap. By having CASSY throughout the entire school district, we now have a cohesive mental health and wellness program, and will have seamless transition from middle school wellness to high school wellness.”
The District was facing a budget deficit when they parted ways with ACS, yet CASSY’s services are almost four times more expensive. However, CASSY’s proposed budget of $467,000 was the cheapest of the District’s options, the other two being priced at $875,000 and $541,000.
Even though the price is steep, the services are worth it, according to Billman.
“Budget was a factor in our decision making process, but we thought of how many on-campus, full time therapists we are [going to] need,” Billman said. “[With] what we are paying for CASSY, we are getting amazing resources.”
According to Billman, CASSY tailors its services to each individual school they work for, and understanding the community and environment of Paly was a key factor in choosing them.
“CASSY ended up talking about student climate and how they were going to navigate the waters of the parent networks in Palo Alto, which are infamously known for being very involved in student life,” Billman said.
However, the change from ACS to CASSY was more difficult than expected for some students. Although one counselor remained from ACS as a resource for students, the transition was still fraught.
Paly senior Ryan Liu has experience with ACS, and finds it difficult to work with CASSY.
“The ACS counselor knew my struggles, family situation, sources of stress and just had an overall knowledge about me,” Liu said.“Swapping for a new counselor meant that I had to start anew.”
“It felt that the CASSY counselor was sort of replacing the ACS counselor and that didn’t feel right, especially since there were so many moments worth remembering with the old counselor.”
Additionally, the fact that students can’t stay in contact with their previous counselor creates an even harder situation.
“When a counselor stops being ‘hired’ or stops talking to you in a counselor-patient relationship like the end of last year, by ethical reasons in the business you cannot befriend them or anything after,” Liu said.
However, Liu does acknowledge the immense resource counseling services provide and wishes that more students took advantage of them.
“CASSY does still offer a good service and the people are very friendly,” Liu said. “I feel counseling is just an underused resource.”