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New mental health facility coming to Medford

 Posted: 2:20 PM January 14, 2014

A fresh take on mental health treatment and rehabilitation intended to improve quality of life for clients and save Jackson County tens of thousands of dollars in health care costs is heading to downtown Medford.

The Compass House, a nonprofit facility, is set to open on Ivy Street in June. The 3,360-square-foot facility will operate using a "clubhouse" model, in which clients — or "members" — and center officials run the center together. Compass House proponents say more than 300 similar clubhouses operate in 33 countries, and the model's popularity continues to grow.

"I believe it's the same reason we've seen the 12-step community grow," said Compass House representative Matthew Vorderstrasse. "When you're around people who have been through the same things that you (have), but have overcome it, it gives you a sense of trust. It just inspires that confidence."

Compass House will be the second clubhouse in Oregon. The other, Portland's NorthStar, has been open since 2010.

Compass House officials say members participate in their own recovery process by working and socializing together in a safe environment. Members meet daily and are assigned duties around the center. Those responsibilities include clerical work, making lunches, cleaning, data entry, and outreach to members with scant attendance. The jobs are meant to be like a typical work day.

"Everything is on the table with members unless it is a confidential issue," Vorderstrasse said. "Members get to pick and choose."

The facility will include employment programs intended to help get members back into the workforce and programs to help access social and health care services for members.

County Health & Human Services officials say clubhouses have the ability to save money. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, psychiatric hospitalization costs between $300 and $500 per day of acute inpatient treatment. On average, an adult seeking treatment will stay in a psychiatric facility for 12 days, and inmates with mental health disorders typically serve longer prison sentences and have a higher rate of recidivism.

Operating costs at a clubhouse run anywhere from $20 to $40 per member per day, according to data from Clubhouse International. In addition, the number of hospital visits is reduced, research shows. A three-year study of 25 North Carolina clubhouse members showed a 68 percent overall reduction in hospitalization visits and a 98 percent reduction in the average number of days of inpatient care required per visit, according to the group.

Jackson County officials think those kinds of cost savings can happen here, too.

The center is intended to pick up where the DASIL and Hawthorne House facilities left off. The client-run, peer drop-in centers closed in autumn of 2012 due to budgetary constraints.

Stacy Brubaker, division manager for Jackson County Mental Health, said interest in creating Compass House has been progressing since March 2013.

"We've kind of gone gangbusters on moving forward," Brubaker said.

— Ryan Pfeil


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