Staff photo/Hayley Day
                                Barbara Starr, program manager at Compass Health San Juans, speaks to a crowd of health industry professionals at Brickworks in Friday Harbor on June 14.

Staff photo/Hayley Day Barbara Starr, program manager at Compass Health San Juans, speaks to a crowd of health industry professionals at Brickworks in Friday Harbor on June 14.

New Compass Health program serves Medicaid-eligible youth on island

A program aimed to help low-income youth with behavioral health needs in their own homes, as opposed to outside medical facilities, has arrived to the San Juans.

Compass Health’s Wraparound with Intensive Services, or “WISe,” began at the end of May on San Juan Island, and plans to base services on Orcas and Lopez are in the works.

By keeping youth who have behavioral health needs and use Medicaid in familiar surroundings, they avoid previous state-funded options like hospitalization and long-term institutionalization in psychiatric facilities. Seeking treatment at home produces the best results, according to Stefani Castro, program supervisor for WISe in the San Juans.

“There’s a better outcome when youth maintain connections that are so important to them; if they don’t have to leave their family, their friends, their schools,” said Castro at a Friday Harbor luncheon about local Compass Health services on June 14.

Medicaid is a state and federally funded program that provides insurance to low-income Americans. WISe serves those eligible for Medicaid from ages 3-21 by providing holistic services such as therapy for youth and families and monthly meetings with families and health professionals.

This “wraparound” support of serving the entire family, versus just the youth in need, is the basis around the program, said Castro.

Plus, results show the comprehensive method works. Since 2014, Castro said that out of the roughly 500 children Compass Health staff have served through WISe programs, only two have sought more intensive treatment through the program.

“That means [most] kids don’t have to leave their communities, which is the goal of the program,” said Compass Health CEO Tom Sebastian at the luncheon.

The program is a result of a lawsuit, filed in 2009 against the state for failing to provide enough community-based behavioral health services for children on Medicaid. The lawsuit was settled in 2013 and forced the state to provide more home care for Medicaid-eligible youth. Castro said the island program is already taking referrals.

There are eight client openings for the San Juan program, but WISe can grow as needed. Island County staff, Castro explained, started with eight openings during their inception two years ago and now house 27.

For those who do not currently see a mental health professional, contact Compass Health at 360-378-2669 to set up an assessment to join WISe. For those who do see a mental health professional, ask for a referral to Compass Health.

Compass Health serves behavioral health patients in San Juan, Snohomish, Skagit, Island and Whatcom Counties. The San Juan location is at 520 Spring St. in Friday Harbor; the Orcas center is at 1286 Mount Baker Road in Eastsound; and the Lopez office is at 46 Eads Lane.

For more info, visit www.compasshealth.org.