Compass Health unable to replace psychiatrist at Snohomish location

SNOHOMISH — A shortage of psychiatrists in the public health system is driving a change at a clinic here.

Compass Health, a nonprofit that provides mental health and chemical dependency services, is losing the psychiatrist at its location in Snohomish.

The clinic’s psychiatrist is set to transfer to another Compass location. The nonprofit plans to replace the doctor with an advanced registered nurse practitioner in June.

“I feel like I’m having my entire program yanked out from under my feet,” said Cole Younger, a patient. “They think it’s safe to have the mentally ill not see a doctor.”

Younger, of Baring, is a level-two sex offender registered in King County. He was convicted in 1996 of first-degree rape of a child. Now he’s working on his sexual deviancy issues at the Snohomish clinic.

“I want to make sure I never have another victim,” said Younger, 45.

Compass Health CEO Tom Sebastian said there’s a shortage nationwide of psychiatrists in the public system.

Compass is constantly recruiting specialists but was unable to find one to fill the vacancy in Snohomish, he said.

“It’s one of our major challenges,” Sebastian said. “Psychiatrists are our most scarce resource.”

Because Snohomish is a small clinic, only one prescriber is needed. A nurse practitioner can prescribe medications.

A psychiatrist earns about 35 percent more than a nurse practitioner, he said. It actually costs Compass more to hire nurse practitioners because insurance reimbursements for doctors are greater.

“There are no cost savings,” Sebastian said. “That’s not what’s driving this.”

Sebastian believes not having a doctor at every clinic poses no safety risk to patients or the community. Psychiatrists are one part of a patient’s treatment team, which includes therapists, case managers and sometimes a peer counselor. In the four counties it serves, Compass employs nine psychiatrists and 11 nurse practitioners.

Patients who are dissatisfied with the change can make a complaint or file a grievance. Sebastian said the nonprofit will work with each person to find a solution.

“We try to be as flexible as we can,” he said.

The Snohomish clinic, one of a dozen countywide, serves about 300 clients.

Compass Health has locations in Island, San Juan, Skagit and Snohomish counties. The majority of patients are low-income and eligible for Medicaid. Some are criminal offenders enrolled in a program to help them transition back into the community after being incarcerated.

Younger said he has come to trust his providers at Compass, where he believes he’s made progress. Other programs he has tried have not worked well for him. He said his lack of trust stems from being sexually and physically abused as a child.

Younger is also dealing with other problems, including a history of substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety and agoraphobia, a condition that causes him to be afraid of crowds and public spaces.

“I’m a hermit,” Younger said. “I get scared when I leave home.”

Younger admits to using drugs when he committed the sex crime. He said his treatment has helped him stay sober.

At Compass, he said, he has found professionals he can count on to see him though his bad spells. He fears that without a psychiatrist to oversee his medications, his progress will diminish.

“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I’ve kept on the straight and narrow because I get to work on my issues with my psychiatrist. If they take that away from me I’ll have nothing.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read