Compass House serves people with mental illness in Jackson County

KTVL, May 9, 2014

Compass-House-new-building_12209Chad McComas is the board chairman for Compass House, a clubhouse model of psycho-social rehabilitation.  When the Dasil Drop-in Center and Hawthorne Center went out of business, those with mental illness in Jackson County were left in the dark.

“So often they’re trapped at home somewhere and they have no place to go. And we want to get them out of the isolation and get them back into the community,” says McComas.

Last year Hawthorne Center merged its assets into Dasil, formally changing its name to “Compass House.”  McComas says the clubhouse is a place where members can take a few hours to stop focusing on their disabilities and strengthen their abilities.  He adds, ” It’s where they come and realize that there’s help available for them and that their not an outcast to society. There’s a place where they can come kind of put their lives back together.”

The group that’s often overlooked is youth with mental illness. Bob Lieberman has worked with children with mental health challenges most of his adult life. As the chief executive officer for Kairos,  a Grants Pass based treatment center that works with at-risk youth, he’s dedicated to transforming healthcare and safety nets for kids and young adults with mental disabilities.

“It is about helping them not feel alone, helping them feel like there’s hope in life, and it starts with empathy,” says Lieberman.

Kairos is working with Jackson County Mental Health, Youth Group Oregon, and several local companies to open “Medford Drop,” also known as “The Hub.”  Lieberman says, “We’re really excited to be able to bring this into the community.”  Teens and young adults ages 14 through 24 will work with staff who have suffered with mental disorders themselves.

Lieberman stresses, “Someone who’s been there and had the experience can often be very affective in helping people feel supported, feel like they’re not alone, feel like there’s hope in life.”

The computer lab at the drop-in center will be used to teach youth skills they can utilize in their daily lives to help the transition into adulthood.  One of those skills is computer coding. The Hub offers a character academy where members will make their own apps and then try to sell them. A portion of app sales will be recycled back into the center’s budget.  Youth will also have the opportunity to take leadership classes and volunteer around the community.

“It’s an opportunity to kind of learn how to manager your challenges better, find their assets, find their strengths and move on to better things in their lives,” says Lieberman.

Kairos is linking up with Jackson County Mental Health on several other major projects. One of those is an outreach program where  state mental health associates go to a family’s home to teach and practice with children skills with which they are having trouble.

Lieberman points out, “They’re good kids. There’s no such things a bad kid. And they have challenges in terms of their neurological development. And there’s a lot we can do just with these kind of resources to help things get better.”

The same organizations have also bought a brand new house in Medford.  It will be used as a crisis respite treatment foster home.

Lieberman explains hospitals do not have the resources to treat children in crisis. The foster home is a  place where children will be taken during a melt-down but do not necessarily need to be hospitalized.

“I think for any of us walking into an emergency room, they make us anxious they make us nervous, they’re kind of traumatizing in a way. They make us feel like we don’t have much control because there’s a lot people who are hurting in a very serious way,” says Lieberman.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if a person is young or old, at risk or not.  What matters is everyone is on their way to a brighter future.

“It’s a bunch of people coming together and saying lets figure out the best way we can try to make a difference in the lives of these people,” says Lieberman.

Compass House and The Hub are scheduled to open in June 2014.