District to hear preliminary CDC suggestions

Zahra Muzaffar, Author

The Palo Alto High School and Gunn High School administrations will meet with a group of county health officials tomorrow to learn about the preliminary findings from the Epi-Aid investigation led by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Principal Kim Diorio says she hopes the CDC investigation and health officials recognize that the community is heading in the right direction.

“I would expect that [the CDC and county officials] would say that we are doing a lot of positive work in this area,” Diorio said. “When I started my principalship three years ago, we weren’t doing any of this and [now] we’re working to strengthen the culture.”

The information will be provided to the Palo Alto Unified School District through a series of committee meetings, according to Diorio.

“The [recommendations] will come in a series and provide us some information for next steps,” Diorio said. “It will be interesting to see if there are any surprise findings or something that we’re all missing.”

Jonathan Frecceri, Paly’s mental health and wellness coordinator, explained how one of the first initiatives in response to the suicide epidemic, Project Safety Net, will collaborate with the district to carry out the suggestions.

“An advisory group of people is being put together with Project Safety Net to figure out how to distill this sort of information to the community and how to roll out the recommendations the CDC provides in the coming weeks,” Frecceri said.“They were here for 10 days in late February collecting synthesized data from clusters dating back to the early 2000s and in 2009 the community pulled together and created Project Safety Net.”

Project Safety Net is a collaborative community network that formed in hopes of fostering youth well-being and implementing a mental health plan, according to the organization’s website.

“This collaborative consists of all the non-profit based organizations in Palo Alto, parents in the community, as well as students, including attendees at both Gunn and Paly,” Frecceri said. “It’s really working to mitigate this phenomenon of youth suicide.”

Additional reporting by Bianca Al-Shamari.