Compass Health Receives $1.24 Million in Funding to Meet Community Behavioral Health Needs Tied to COVID-19

Compass Health Receives $1.24 Million in Funding to Meet Community Behavioral Health Needs Tied to COVID-19

‘We are doing everything in our power to be ready’ for anticipated mental health ‘wave’ as outbreak continues


EVERETT, Wash. Today, Compass Health announced it has received more than $1.24 million in philanthropic donations and federal, state and local grants to support the organization’s behavioral health outreach related to COVID-19 response and prevention, including implementation of its telehealth system. The funding will support a range of vital mental health and substance use treatment services across Snohomish, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Whatcom counties.

“We are doing everything in our power to be ready for what we, and our colleagues across the public health community, recognize as a coming wave of behavioral health issues,” said Tom Sebastian, president and CEO of Compass Health. “While the challenges of 2020 affect everyone in some way, we anticipate there will be even greater need and growing ranks among those we serve – low-income and homeless adults and youth who qualify for Medicaid benefits provided through Washington’s Apple Health.”

Snohomish County designated $643,000 of its CARES Act funding, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) awarded a $247,000 COVID-19 Telehealth Program Grant, and private supporters contributed $355,000 to the behavioral health provider. The funds will enable Compass Health to secure laptops, tablets, smartphones, and network upgrades for client access to telehealth services and equip Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams with technology; offer Psychological First Aid training for community members; purchase personal protective equipment (PPE); supply housing, food and groceries for individuals in need; and install touchless faucets, hand dryers and other facility upgrades to help prevent spread of the virus.

“Considering the economic, health and equity challenges our region faces, our community partnerships and dedicated collective response are more critical than ever to ensure we keep pace with needs,” said Mary Jane Brell-Vujovic, Snohomish County’s human services director. “Compass Health has proven its ability to mobilize and ensure access to vital services and we are thankful to have a partner with its depth of experience, scalability and innovation.”

Compass Health, which serves nearly 17,000 clients each year, has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, serving populations at high risk for the complications from the virus – and pivoting to provide care virtually while adhering to social-distancing and other preventive measures. Now, even as many communities are beginning to loosen restrictions on commerce and travel, the organization is preparing for the long-term impact the pandemic poses to mental and physical health.

“To our community members, if you are experiencing depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, domestic challenges or other needs, call 1-844-822-7609 and we will be ready to help you navigate this unprecedented time,” Sebastian said. “To our elected officials, community leaders, and individual supporters who make our work possible, we say thank you – we are humbled and honored to be your partner.”

The organization’s private support included a total of more than $168,000 for telehealth and other technology capabilities from Children’s Advocacy Centers of Washington, Chuckanut Health Foundation, EverTrust Foundation, KeyBank, North Sound Accountable Community of Health, Office of Crime Victim Advocacy – Washington State, San Juan Island Community Foundation, Verdant Health Commission, and private individuals.

Building Changes, Campbell Auto Group, and COE CARES contributed nearly $60,000 to support homeless youth and Compass Health’s Emergency Motel Voucher Program; and Albertsons Companies Foundation, Fred Meyer, Safeway Foundation, Skagit Community Foundation and Whitehorse Foundation donated more than $71,000 to fund food, groceries and other basic needs for clients.

Kaiser Permanente, RiverStyx Foundation, United Way of Whatcom County and the Whatcom Community Foundation together gifted $56,000 to Compass Health’s general operations.

“This funding is especially meaningful because it emphasizes the exceptional work our teams have done to quickly respond to the changing needs of our communities,” said Tom Kozaczynski, chief development and communications officer at Compass Health. “We are grateful to partners who are dedicated to ensuring our team is prepared to expand access to care for community members – including many to whom mental health challenges may be entirely new.”

Compass Health’s efforts build on a spring that has required nimble and rapid innovation. Throughout March 2020, client participation in outpatient treatment and other services decreased 20 percent week-over-week as community members adhered to the state’s orders to stay home. In response, the organization dramatically expanded deployment of its innovative mobile telehealth system, Compass Health Bridge, training more than 500 behavioral health professionals to deliver care remotely, and enabling many clients to communicate via their own devices.

COVID-19: Telehealth Tipping Point for Behavioral Health Delivery

From September 2019 to May 2020, Compass Health’s overall delivery of billable telehealth services increased by more than 1,100 percent– from 467 to 5,814 instances of care per month. About 40 percent of all billable services in May were delivered via telehealth. Even more remarkable numbers come from Compass Health’s WISe program, where Bridge supports care for youth intensive outpatient and wraparound services. Without telehealth, the organization would have missed out on nearly 60 touchpoints with youth and families every day in May— care that became even more critical as kids lost services and infrastructure from our education system when schools closed.

“We know that times of stress and uncertainty are especially challenging for those dealing with mental health and substance use disorder issues, so it’s imperative for us to continue counseling and treatment,” said Compass Health Chief Medical Officer Camis Milam, MD. “Compass Health has a lot of experience developing situation-specific responses to shared trauma, and now we’re reinforcing the infrastructure we have in place to support accessible care.”

In particular, telehealth has been instrumental in Compass Health’s ability to respond to the needs of the community this spring. Piloted in the fall of 2019, its Bridge system enables behavioral health professionals to connect virtually with clients in community and home settings via HIPAA-compliant, secure video chat for counseling, psychiatric evaluation and case management.

“We see Bridge as an increasingly important tool that allows us expand access to treatment for underserved communities, including communities of color and the growing numbers of individuals that are expected to qualify for Medicaid,” said Sebastian. “The funding we’ve received will allow us to continue to make meaningful change across the five counties we serve, meaning we can reach people in rural communities, or people who might seek our services for the first time.”

Additionally, the organization’s frontline strategy includes its MCOT crisis outreach teams and Triage Centers, which treat individuals experiencing behavioral health crises or pre-crisis symptoms and refer them to services, helping to prevent trips to the emergency department or to jail. Compass Health has deployed six mobile Bridge devices to emergency departments in Skagit, Island, San Juan and Whatcom counties, enabling its MCOT staff to complete behavioral health assessments remotely. While supporting safety by minimizing physical contact, the devices also help hospitals preserve PPE by eliminating the need to provide it for Compass Health staff members on-site.

“As champions of whole person health, we know that we are in the position have an impact on how our community will navigate COVID-19,” said Sebastian. “I want to express my heartfelt appreciation for all the community and state partners who have enabled us realize this vision and given us the means to support the well-being of those that we serve.”

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