Suicide crisis agency partners with Chandler Unified School District to provide treatment

Chandler Unified School District found it can take weeks for students to get an appointment for help, and officials say this partnership will change that.
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 4:59 PM MST|Updated: May. 3, 2023 at 5:26 PM MST
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CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Suicide is a sensitive but important topic, especially for teens and families. Beginning next year, Chandler Unified School District’s partnership with a mental health agency will get kids the help they need on campus.

Right outside Perry High School, a sign marks the future of The Hope Institute of Chandler Unified. “We really wanted to give our families true options that close the lethal gap of getting a student out of thoughts of suicide,” said Brenda Vargas, director of counseling and social services at CUSD.

Rather than just responding to crisis, they’re focusing more on prevention. “I think the really important thing when we’re talking about The Hope Institute and what The Hope Institute does is they actually focus on treating thoughts of suicide,” said Lindsay Taylor, lead clinician at The Hope Institute of Chandler Unified.

During the first semester of the school year, CUSD found 395 students had suicidal thoughts through a district-wide survey. They say it can take weeks for students to get an appointment for help, and the district says this partnership will change that. “We want to get them seen within 48 hours but less than that if we can,” Taylor said.

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Once a student is seen, the intensive program will last a couple of weeks. “We’re talking approximately six weeks and to be exact, 5.2 weeks and students will be out of thoughts of suicide after receiving treatment,” Vargas said.

The center will be open for students experiencing suicidal thoughts by the next school year. “We are removing every single financial barrier that could possibly exist. Our goal is that any child, any student with thoughts of suicide gets the help they need regardless if they’re uninsured or under insured,” Vargas said.

Eventually, the plan is for The Hope Institute to serve staff and the community. Another hope institute is already in the works and will serve the northern half of the district.