The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

October 14, 2013

Finding their way to better care with COMPASS

Program treats people suffering from chronic, mental illness

It wasn’t there when he was in high school. It wasn’t there when he was in college.

But by the time Ron Steinberg hit his mid-20s and was married with children and starting his career as a teacher of languages, it began to show up. Subtle at first, but eventually depression would hit him in a way that would change his life. Before he got help, Steinberg would become an alcoholic.

Today, however, Steinberg is healthy and has figured out a way to manage both his mental illness and the chronic illnesses he deals with: diabetes, irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.

He credits a new initiative at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato called the Care of Mental Physical and Substance-use Syndromes program, or COMPASS.

Kicked off with a three-year start-up grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, COMPASS is available to current MCHS patients who suffer from both mental and chronic illnesses. The program recognizes that caring for chronic illness can be made more difficult when depression is added to the mix, so it offers patients tools to better deal with that part of their lives.

Steinberg says it helped him a lot.

“It organizes your effort to help yourself with your health matters rather than going to a couple of different providers who can pull you in a couple different directions,” Steinberg said.

Added his wife, Carmen, “There’s a cohesion. That’s how we felt. Like we were right in the middle of the circle of caregivers, and we felt very thankful for that.”

The grant MCHS received to start COMPASS funded two care coordinators, one at the clinic’s Eastridge location, and one at Northridge. While the care approach was funded by a grant, MCHS said that once the three-year grant is up it will be absorbing the COMPASS approach permanently.

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