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Mental health agency moves into new home

Jill Wood holds her son, James, 1, as he makes a hand print at a recent Compass Health open house. Watching are Diane Gilling, in back, Compass Health fund-raising manager, and Melody Bohnsack, Compass Health development specialist. - Nathan Whalen / staff photo
Jill Wood holds her son, James, 1, as he makes a hand print at a recent Compass Health open house. Watching are Diane Gilling, in back, Compass Health fund-raising manager, and Melody Bohnsack, Compass Health development specialist.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen / staff photo

During an open house earlier this month at the new Compass Health building in Coupeville, Larry Harris, president of Compass Health, talked about the conditions mental health care providers worked in at its previous North Main Street location known as the Johnson Building.

“There are various horror stories about the mold, the leaky roof... and then there were the stairs,” Harris said, adding that officials who surveyed the Johnson Building in 1998 didn’t know how the roof and second floor were supported. Others attending the open house mentioned the stairs, located outside, would creek and sway.

One thing mental health services workers did know was they needed a new building, which they moved into recently. They spent part of Sept. 18 celebrating its opening.

The homey, 7,000-square-foot facility located at the end of First Street in Coupeville is the headquarters for mental health services provided by Compass Health on Whidbey Island. These services include a 24-hour crisis intervention, children and family services and chemical dependency counseling.

“I think it’s especially beautiful when you contrast it with where we provided mental health services,” said Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton, who received a plaque in appreciation for his help with the new building.

Tom Sebastian, director of the north service area for Compass Health, said the Johnson building didn’t meet the needs of the community and patients.

“It was completely substandard,” Sebastian said.

The new building houses counseling space, several group therapy rooms and a play therapy area. Should Compass Health need to expand the building, room

is available behind the building.

The $1.18 million facility was funded through a $750,000 state development block grant, $100,000 from the county and $100,000 from the community. Compass Health is currently raising the $120,000 needed to pay off the building. During the open house, visitors made hand prints, at $25 a piece, that will be placed in the lobby and money raised will go toward the building.

Shelton said that the new building will remain publicly owned, which guarantees the county will always have the facilities to provide mental health services.

Compass Health moved out of the Johnson building in July. The North Main Street building is being used primarily for storage.

Shelton said he wants to see the building torn down and is negotiating with the Town of Coupeville to sell the land and building. The town hopes to level the building and expand the neighboring park.

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