Thank you to the Whitehorse Foundation for your significant support!

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Compass Health is incredibly honored to have been awarded a multi-year grant from The Whitehorse Foundation of $100,000 per year for two years to support our clinical services at Cocoon House. 

Compass Health and Cocoon House have worked together for more than a decade supporting homeless young people and their families.  Our Compass Health Youth Counseling Program provides crucial mental health counseling services to homeless youth ages 13-18, available through all Cocoon House housing sites.  Compass Health therapists provide help with crisis planning, provide a deeper clinical understanding of the behaviors that the youth may be exhibiting, and help with the overall treatment plan of the youth during their stay at the shelter.  Significant funding from the Whitehorse Foundation will ensure stability for the programs, providing for the counseling staff that the young persons have come to trust at Cocoon House.  Last year, Cocoon House served over 1,500 young people and their families.

Many homeless youth have difficulty reaching out for help as they tend to distrust adults and authority because of their previous negative experiences and betrayals by those adults responsible to care for them.  Therapists work to help the youth recognize that they’ve had difficulty trusting adults in the past and help them to alter this belief in order to focus on what has changed in their lives and what they now control.  The trust building that happens through Cocoon House staff and services, partnered with the behavioral health services (mental health and chemical dependency services) of Compass Health, give homeless young people the chance to reunite with their families, when safe and appropriate, or go on to build their own healthy families. 

Clinicians from Compass Health work with young people to initiate a therapeutic relationship, and provide individualized engagement therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy when appropriate and safe. The objective is to ensure that these homeless and at-risk youth have immediate, barrier-free access to mental health services.  By being seen as part of the Cocoon staff and being available during informal, non-structured times such as community meals and social activities, encourages teens at Cocoon House to know and trust Compass Health therapists, thereby making treatment more effective and accessible. 

Often becoming homeless because of family conflicts, and sometimes family homelessness, the young people Cocoon House works with typically live in campgrounds, in their cars, on the streets, in cheap motels or abandoned buildings, or will “couch surf” with friends or relatives.  For most, the step to seek help is profound, although only the first step of many needed to stabilize their immediate situations, regain control of their lives, and begin identifying and dealing with personal barriers and issues that affect their future.  

The first responsibility of the Compass Health clinician is to assess the youth for safety and to ensure that the youth is not suicidal or engaging in self-harming behaviors. They seek to immediately establish a relationship with youth as to encourage the youth to attend individual counseling sessions. This engagement therapy phase is very important and requires great clinical skill.  It is critical to develop a strong sense of trust for the youth to be willing to share their story and ask for the help that they need. The engagement process is different for each youth depending on their individual history and personality.

Once the engagement phase is completed, the Compass Health staff person will then consult with the Cocoon House staff, giving them information regarding these safety issues, tips to identify triggers for aggressive or self-harming behaviors, and ways to respond should concerning behaviors occur. Next, in the individual counseling sessions, the clinician continues to assess the needs of the youth. If it is safe and reasonable for the youth to return home, then family sessions will be set up in order to help the youth and family reunify.

The issues that arise in individual therapy may include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management, grief and loss, and/or suicidal thoughts.  During treatment sessions, other needs of the youth are assessed, and if they require drug and alcohol counseling, medical services, or a referral to Dawson Place in cases related to sexual abuse, these referrals are made and coordinated between Compass Health and Cocoon House staff. Clinical treatment focusses on the acquisition of daily living skills such as emotional regulation, evaluating life choices and consequences, maintaining family connections, and developing healthy relationships including conflict resolution.

Compass Health clinicians also provide crisis services and emergency counseling to the teens enrolled in the various programs. Issues and crises do arise, and having a mental health professional on site to handle these issues is a great benefit to both the youth being served as well as Cocoon House staff.

Youth do have the ability and agency to end the cycle of homelessness.  Thanks to the generous support of The Whitehorse Foundation, Cocoon House and Compass Health can facilitate this process.  This funding gives Compass Health and Cocoon House the flexibility to provide individualized services to a non-traditional population with the ultimate goal of preventing more costly and more extensive interactions with the public health sector later in life.  Many of these young people have families, who with the right therapist may find the opportunity to return to a safe environment at home or with other family members instead of the streets.