NORTHBROOK, IL — When Compass Health Center in Northbrook first started offering virtual treatment services in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, chief medical officer Claudia Welke said she was skeptical group sessions in front of a monitor would be as advantageous to clients’ well-being as direct contact. This was especially concerning, since the order was enacted in the spring, one of the most stressful times of year for teens and young adults, Welke added. But because of the positive reception virtual programming has gotten among clients, Compass officials are hoping to roll out similar services statewide.
Compass Health Center was founded in 2011 and offers partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment for children, adolescents, young adults and adults. In addition to mood and anxiety programs, Compass also offers programs for substance use, trauma and mental health problems stemming from chronic pain. Welke said the center, which also has a location in Chicago, now sees over 300 patients daily but much of their treatment runs contrary to social distancing practices.
“The idea of closing up shop and leaving people hanging was not an idea we could even entertain,” Welke said.
Beth Hope, senior director of child and adolescent programming for Compass, said once the governor’s order was put in place, Hope said Compass closed for one day while teams met to figure out how to translate group curriculums into a virtual format. On March 19, a virtual program was unveiled with the assistance of education specialists who helped school districts and parents navigate the new system.
Group therapy, family therapy, psychiatry and individual therapy sessions now are run through a virtual platform. Weekday, evening and weekend program options also are available to accommodate various schedules. Welke said group therapy is offered through a health care platform of Zoom with stronger security.
Two weeks into the transition, Welke said patients were surveyed about their reaction to the virtual program. Although some still preferred in-person contact, many favored the new format.
“I’m so happy we have the choice of virtual and are not on hold during this time,” one client wrote. “Having the group and connecting is often a highlight of my day. I always leave group a little better than when I entered.”
“I still feel cared about and supported even though everything is virtual right now,” another client wrote. “That’s so important and you’re doing a good job at it.”
Welke said one positive result was an improvement in young adult attendance to group sessions, possibly because this patient population is more tech-savvy.
“People suffering from social anxiety feel like it is much easier to talk in this format versus in-person,” Welke said.
Although the Chicago area has ample access to mental health care, the same cannot be said about rural areas downstate. Therefore, Hope said the plan is to continue virtual services and expand them across the state once the threat of the coronavirus eases.
“We’re anticipating uncertainty and anxiety of what ‘normal’ is going to look like once things start to reopen,” Hope said. “People are more anxious about reemerging into normal life and we’re trying to help be a support along the way.”
Welke said specific services like a child adolescent psychiatry are limited downstate, which could pose a problem if suicide rates increase. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate has increased by 35% since 1999. Youth between the ages of 10 and 24 saw a 56% increase between 2000 and 2017.
For more information about Compass’ virtual mental health services, visit the Compass Health Center website.
Northbrook Patch continues to write human-interest profiles on Northbrook-area businesses during the ongoing health crisis. Northbrook Patch has a simple online survey for local small businesses to fill out to let everyone know they are open and their current hours of operation. About a dozen Northbrook businesses have been added to Patch’s list so far.
If you want to add your business to Northbrook Patch’s list of open and closed businesses, you can do so here.
To keep on top of the latest Northbrook coronavirus news, subscribe to Patch news alerts and newsletters.