Some of the many lives that have been changed through accessing services at Compass Health
Arnita's story is one of loss, addiction, recovery, and hope. She bravely shared her story at our Building Communities of Hope Luncheon on October 6th and is one of the stories in our agency video.
Arnita works for Compass Health as a Peer Advisor and is helping others through their messes.
Hello I’m Arnita and I’m here to talk about my journey – The person standing here today is nothing like the person who I was three years ago.
I have good and stable housing and a great job.
Had I not made some major changes, I would still be in a rut and living the worst life a person could possibly live.
Let me give you just a quick look at what that life looked like:
I am the only girl with three brothers and grew up very poor in the projects.
Things were pretty tough for me because abuse seemed to be all I knew. It started at age 7 that I can remember.
I got pregnant at the tender age of 14 and had to drop out of school. I have seen many deaths and was introduced to drugs at a very early age.
I could write a book about my life growing up.
In 2007 I was married to an addict and became addicted to him and drugs.
In fact I was so co-dependent that while I was once in recovery, I told myself that the only way he would stay home with me was to join him in his madness.
So I started using again in hopes that it would change matters, but I was wrong.
It led both of us on a cycle. I just don’t know how to this day -- because of the lifestyle we lived -- how either of us survived.
Here I was all over again on this vicious cycle. Boy, I think the pain of disappointing my family was worse than anything else I have ever experienced in my entire life….
I have to admit that there is definitely a God working in our lives today, because my poor choices not only affected me, and they also had a huge impact on my children.
But despite those poor choices, my children have continued to be supportive of me today and they don’t judge me for my past.
I thank all six of my kind and loving children.
You guys have been remarkable and so supportive of me, even though you continue deal with your own situations. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You saw me go from being a healthy, vibrant mother and friend to being a drug addict that could no longer function in society, yet you never left me and you still treated me with dignity and respect.
In fact it was my two oldest children, Vic and Salena along with some really great friends from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses that held my family together when I was out of the picture for three years while in intensive recovery.
My son Vic put off going to college to stay back and help raise his brothers and sisters and he was only about 18 years old. I will never forget all you’ve done for our family and I thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.
So, had I not made these major changes in my life with the support of my family, friends, and Jehovah I wouldn’t be able stand up here today and tell you how much I truly love working with my Compass Health team and clients.
Compass Health has really taught me the value of putting yourself out there for our clients; in most cases it means having a huge effect on their lives. Since I had lived such a hard life -- I had really become a walking list of resources.
With all the things I have experienced -- from being a drug addict, experiencing domestic violence, losing three of my children to CPS, and fighting to get all of them back, to losing everything including my housing, you name it I’ve been there.
And in all those years trying to get clean, sober and fighting for my kids, I’ve figured out where to go for help!
My first year on the job, I worked with the HARPS Program which was brand new program and it stands for Housing and Recovery through Peer Services.
We helped place the persons experiencing chronic homelessness into stable housing. I worked so hard that I managed to obtain a 100% ratio of placing the persons’ experiencing homelessness into stable housing, while maintaining a huge case load.
My own personal experiences have taught me how to remain humble and to see things from other people perspective.
In fact, my job interview allowed me to be open and honest. If I had been interviewed for any other type of job, I know that I would not have been able to be as open about my past as I was able to be with my supervisor. That was within itself the first indication that I knew I found my place at Compass.
Every day I come to work and deal with crisis situations of our clients -- this brings me closer to the reality which is: Anything can happen at any given time and life is not promised to anyone.
I take my job and the people I work with very serious.
In fact sometimes when I can’t help a person I tend to get really down on myself, but I have to realize that I am only one person. I would like to thank my former supervisor, of the HARPS program for believing in me from day one.
I went to school to become a certified peer counselor, but a lot of my training comes from my own experience in life.
I am continuing my education and I have been able to maintain a 3.65 GPA, which continues to get better every semester.
I received the Zonta foundation Scholarship. And I have been inducted into the National Honor Society of Collegiate Scholarship.
I also just finished a college course which allowed me to petition for classes to be removed from my degree plan because of my work experience at Compass Health -- I asked for credit for 13 classes and out of the 13, I received full credit for 8 of them. That means I will now graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services in December 2017 instead of 2019.
I am living proof that being a part of our Compass Health Team has made a difference in whom I’ve become.
I will continue to work to help those who struggle -- with homelessness, -- with mental health issues, -- and who want to better their lives.
I continue to grow and be fed spiritually, mentally and emotionally -- which helps me to be able to work with individuals from all walks of life to help them gain what is needed in order live happy, healthy lives.
I’ve found purpose and direction in my life and I am not looking back!
Thanks to her Compass Health Care Coordinator, Janis has been able to get through a pretty traumatic period in her life. Janis had just experienced a painful break-up with her significant other and was facing new and challenging health conditions resulting from a fall off her front porch and declining health. The accident had left Janis with constant pain in her back, neck, and hands, as well as crippling headaches.
Janis had begun engagement with the Health Homes program at a time in her life when critical issues regarding abuse from her past were just emerging. The memories of her abuse were causing Janie to engage in self-harm and were negatively impacting her other personal relationships. Janis had fallen into crisis and was admitted to the hospital to stabilize.
The Care Coordinator visited with Janis and her family while she was in the hospital to discuss care expectations and discharge planning. Prior to her crisis, Janis had been in the midst of trying to get a Community Options Program Entry (COPES) caregiver, was managing a lot of new prescriptions and needed assistance submitting paperwork to challenge a denial from Social Security regarding a disability claim. She was trying to cope with all of this while experiencing significant pain from her accident and the unsettling re-emergence of her past abuse. Once Janis was released from the hospital and back home, the Care Coordinator and her support network worked to make sure she had the assistance and resources that she needed.
The Care Coordinator worked with Genoa pharmacy to provide Janis her medications in specialized individual bubble-packaging so that she could keep track of the dosage of her medication; this is a hallmark of the services provided by Genoa Healthcare. Janis’s Care Coordinator made sure that she got the medical equipment she needed, and she began seeing a pain specialist and neurologist to get help with her frequent and debilitating headaches and joint pain.
The Care Coordinator helped Janis enter into Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). DBT is a therapy plan designed to help people change patterns of behavior that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking, and substance abuse and family therapy. The Care Coordinator organized a review with the Department of Social and Health Services, and Janis’s caregivers hours were increased to full-time status. The Care Coordinator was also able to connect Janis with a free legal advocate who is currently working on her Social Security denial case.
As part of her therapy work to overcome her abusive trauma, Janis reports that she is learning how to recognize emotions in others and respond appropriately. She also is very thankful for her Care Coordinator, her Legal Advocate, and Caregiver. She reports that she is getting better at “asking for help when I need it.” Although her painful memories and physical pain have not gone away completely, Janis is home with her two kitties and feels that she is “on the way to being much, much better” now that she has a supportive team in place!
Anthony came to the Offender Re-entry Community Safety Program (ORCSP) at Compass Health after serving 16 months in prison for a felony conviction.
Upon discharge from prison Anthony was provided with housing and rental assistance, he had weekly meetings with his counselor, and regular meetings with the Compass Health psychiatric medication provider. ORCSP also assisted Anthony with obtaining Social Security Income, food assistance, reduced fare bus passes, cell phone service to stay in touch with providers, and household goods.
Anthony says, “When I first started therapy with my counselor we worked on looking at long-term goals like getting back to school and he helped me get out of default on my student loans so I could start classes.” Getting back into further education was very important to Anthony as he continued to maintain stability. Anthony says, “My counselor also helped me keep on top of the mental health stuff and staying on my medications so I wouldn’t get manic and get into trouble again.”
With the help of his counselor Anthony started to work towards getting his peer counselor certification.
Anthony says, “My counselor helped me get the initial application completed and helped me to schedule the actual training.” Anthony completed Peer Counselor training and received his certification in 2015. He chose to earn his Peer Counselor certificate after a discussion with his counselor. Anthony says, “I was interested in doing something in social services and my counselor said that I would be good at it and that I was relatable and people would be able to talk to me.”
Shortly following the decision to become a Peer Counselor Anthony had temporary setback and spent a short time at the Compass Health Triage center. This short stay at Triage allowed time for him to rest and helped Anthony regain all the progress that he had made previously. Anthony says, “I met a Peer Counselor there and I got to see what his job really was and I decided that’s what I want to eventually do.”
Currently Anthony has decided to again focus on maintaining and improving his health and returning to school to get his Associate’s degree. Anthony is working on studying social services and psychology so he can continue down the path towards helping others. Anthony says that with ORCSP “I got logistical help, but I also got emotional support from the counseling, so if I am ever in trouble, I will have someone to talk to.”
Ricardo came to the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) office on the fourth floor of the Bailey Building in Everett in late 2013. That’s where he met Daisy, our PACT service dog. Ricardo was the first client that Daisy met on her first day at Compass Health -- literally an instant bond. They sat together for quite some time that day.
We told Ricardo a little bit about her story and said that it was similar to what he had been through. She had been rescued from deplorable conditions. She had been “locked up” at the shelter, and had no one to rely on for help or comfort. She was homeless. This about floored him. His initial response was “did she do drugs too???”
The staff laughed, and told him no that she was sober. Since this time they have been best of friends. Ricardo comes in every day to see her and the staff have noticed recently that he uses her as a coping skill. There are many times these days when Ricardo comes in feeling depressed and just silently sits with her. He tells staff that Daisy really picks up his mood and makes him feel better.
Ricardo was referred to the PACT Program from the Mukilteo Evaluation & Treatment (E&T) Center after a placement there from jail in 2008. He had been sleeping constantly, he was depressed and withdrawn. He had attempted suicide at age 20. He was not taking his medication and drinking heavily and as a result, Ricardo had been experiencing chronic homelessness over the course of several years. He had had a history of multiple hospitalizations and incarcerations – mainly for minor offenses such as trespass, theft, etc. Ricardo would be released after a few months in jail and would literally wind up back in jail again within 72 hours for another couple of months stay. This cycle continued repeatedly. He was not engaging with services and was still using drugs and alcohol when not incarcerated which often led to more misdemeanor charges.
The North Sound Mental Health Administration requested a meeting with Compass Health and jail administrators to try and brainstorm ways to keep Ricardo out of jail, as he was using jail for housing by this time. Compass Health staff tried to get him into shelters but he just couldn’t follow the rules, such as being in by curfew. He said he did not like feeling locked up and not being able to leave when he wanted. He didn’t feel safe sleeping at night which brought him back to his times on the street where you need to walk at night to reduce the risk of being harmed, and then sleep during the day. He preferred to stay homeless during this time.
It was within the next couple of months after this meeting with NSMHA and his stay at the Mukilteo E&T that we started to see a change. Ricardo was able to stay out of jail for longer periods and was referred to the PACT Program.
Of course Daisy is not the only one with whom Ricardo works well at the PACT Program, both Brad and Meegan, his Peer Counselors, have been rock stars and are integral in helping him succeed. Brad, our Chemical Dependency specialist, had come on board with Compass Health and the two of them started to build a relationship. Ricardo joined groups, and was taking his medication daily -- he was sober but still having cravings. His psychiatrist prescribed a long-term injectable medication and Ricardo has since been able to build trust with the PACT Team. He has even taken a leadership role in groups by helping others identify their own drug and alcohol issues. Previously, Ricardo had really low self-esteem and was putting himself down all the time. This can still be a struggle for him but he is much better. He still has bouts of depression at times, but he has learned who he can reach out to and rely on to help him -- all of the Compass Health PACT Team.
Brianna is a 15 year-old female who was in the sufferring from depression. Unable to attend school due to high levels of social anxiety and chronic suicidal thoughts, her guardian felt it was imperative that Brianna not be left alone. Her guardian reached out to VOA (Volunteers of America) Care Crisis Line for help and was referred to the Compass Health CPIT (Crisis Prevention and Intervention Teams) program.
When the CPIT clinician and peer counselor arrived at the client’s house, Brianna was isolated in her bedroom and took several minutes to come out to speak with Compass Health staff. Brianna was withdrawn with averted eye contact and her voice was barely audible.
She gradually began to describe symptoms consistent with major depression: sleep and appetite issues, low motivation, high levels of anxiety, a depressed mood with suicidal thoughts of a plan to either overdose, cut her wrists or to hang herself.
Through the course of the assessment, Brianna let the Compass Health CPIT staff know that she was hearing voices telling her to end her life on a daily basis. The voices were also attacking Brianna’s self-esteem. It became clear that immediate resources needed to be garnered to help this young woman.
A call was placed to Fairfax hospital, who specializes in treating adolescents in acute psychiatric distress.
Fortunately, they had a bed available and the appropriate steps were taken in order to secure placement for Brianna. Her guardian agreed to take Brianna directly to the hospital where the she stayed for seven days. Fairfax administered medication to treat the psychosis, depression, and anxiety symptoms that Brianna was experiencing. Brianna participated in group therapy with an emphasis on coping skills.
After 10 days Brianna returned home, the volume on the voices was turned down, her sleep was improved, and she was feeling that the group experience at the hospital had been especially effective.
However, an individual who experiences significant trauma, a chaotic childhood and a drug addicted parent, faces some serious challenges to ongoing stability.
The Compass Health CPIT team was again involved with this young woman just 10 days after her hospitalization.
Although there had been some visible changes, there was also the disturbing presence of ongoing suicidal intent with a plan to end her life. To complicate matters, her guardian was going out of town for four days and could not guarantee her safety.
Again, the hospital was called and a bed became available the next morning.
Brianna is safe and getting the necessary treatment and support, which includes both medication and therapy. Compass Health CPIT teams have reached out to Brianna several times since this experience to make sure she is stable and feeling supported in her environment.
Brianna has voiced her gratitude toward the Compass Health CPIT team when she was called for a follow up appointment. “I didn’t know there was someone I can get my mother to call when I need help,” says Brianna, “Now I have the number on the refrigerator.”