The Power of Partnerships: WISe in the Community

As our name suggests, Compass Health helps clients navigate the journey to mental and behavioral wellness. And as any good navigator understands, working with other trusted partners is key to most effectively reaching a destination.

The professionals who manage our children’s intensive outpatient services programs know this well: community partnerships are a critical part of reaching families and youth across the touchpoints they encounter in their daily lives.

For the majority of children, public schools are a hugely influential touchpoint. And for a smaller group coping with significant life challenges, the juvenile court system is also a factor. Because professionals in both settings are often the first to recognize when a child has intensive mental health needs, they are in an unmatched position to help identify families and youth that would benefit from early intervention using the Wraparound with Intensive Services (WISe) model.

To capitalize on these opportunities, we have established partnerships with local schools and juvenile court in Washington’s San Juan Islands, as well as the school system in Granite Falls at the foothills of the Cascade mountains. In addition to helping Compass Health providers build relationships with families, these connections improve access to behavioral health services in historically underserved areas – where care otherwise may require a ferry ride or a long drive for rural residents.

Part of the cornerstones of the WISe model include working to honor the family voice and choice by identifying strengths, building natural supports and fostering self-sufficiency. In addition to coordinating care with all system partners – the school, therapists or counselors – the WISe team provides 24/7 crisis response and outreach.

For Stefani Castro, Compass Health’s children’s intensive services program manager in San Juan County, working with local schools is an important part of the collaboration that connects kids to the help they need.

“We’ve seen a lot of referrals from schools and their staff who are excited about the partnership. We’re proud to act as another resource and work with counselors and teachers to identify kids who might be struggling at school to build a crisis plan or lower barriers to access,” said Castro.

For example, Orcas Island’s team is made up of therapists, peer partners and care coordinators who work with families year-round to develop a plan of care. At monthly meetings, families develop actionable goals like building on anger management skills or developing empathy.

By working with the school, the WISe team then identifies areas of improvement, such as attendance or behavior in class, or highlighting areas where children are showing strengths to leverage those strengths and build resilience. Youth are then encouraged to practice their skills at home or in the community.

Programs like these not only reduce the chance that youth might require higher level of services, they also reinforce the importance of expanding awareness of services and access to care. Compass Health’s WISe team in Granite Falls serves around 30 clients and uses school-based collaboration to reach as many families as possible.

“I worked with a family at Granite Falls where the school had recommended the WISe program. In this family, the child was not listening, exhibiting aggressive behavior and getting kicked out of class,” said Kelli Hogan, children’s intensive services program manager in Granite Falls. “Now, the child participates in weekly counseling and the mom said she had her first positive parent teacher conference.”

Schools aren’t the only place where WISe’s active community presence is felt. For Linnea Anderson, the administer of Juvenile Court Services for San Juan County, Compass Health’s program is a big part of their early intervention strategies.

“Our experience with the WISe team has been incredible,” said Anderson. “We’re always so impressed with the consistency of their system of care, especially because we also foreground the importance of the youth’s voice. If I’m working a case and WISe gets involved, I know that they will work hard to harmonize so that we’re all working in concert to support the family most effectively.”

For the families that Anderson works with, a multidisciplinary and hands-on approach is crucial to supporting local care.

“WISe fills a critical gap to ensure youth and families receive less-restrictive and community-based intensive services. By having such an incredible partner that supports the right path of care, we can focus on our work while responding to the needs of the community,” said Anderson.

Whether building goals or coordinating care with other members of a family’s local providers, the WISe program isn’t just an important part of Compass Health’s services, it’s a very real extension of the organization’s dedication to build a community safety net through collaboration.

“The goal of WISe is for eligible youth to live and thrive in their homes and communities,” said Castro. “Joining forces with other organizations has really allowed us to truly facilitate a comprehensive system of care.”

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