COMPASS: Pointing the way to better health

For people struggling with depression, simply getting through each day can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Add a serious medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease into the mix, and the stress can be emotionally crippling. So much so that people find themselves unable to get the medical care they need to survive. A new "collaborative, team-based care management" program at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, however, is trying to turn that around.

The Care of Mental, Physical and Substance-use Syndromes program, or COMPASS for you acronym fans, "focuses on collaborative, team-based care management for patients who suffer from depression and also have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or both," the St. Peter Herald reports. The collaborative team is headlined by a primary care physician, a care coordinator, a consulting physician and a consulting psychiatrist who work together "behind the scenes" to make sure patients receive the care and support they need.

Mayo's Molly Augustin is one of those care coordinators, and she meets with patients once a week -- by phone or in person -- to make sure they're getting the personalized care they need. "We meet once a week and discuss patient cases," she tells the Herald. "And then we can make recommendations to the primary care provider without [the patient] making another visit."

It's a unique model of care that seems to be working well for patients like Barry Coulter, who tells the newspaper that before coming into the program and Augustin's care, he struggled with constant urges to overeat due to severe depression over his fight against diabetes, congestive heart failure, and other medical conditions. Coulter says his depression became so bad that he began falling behind on managing his care and ultimately lost his medical coverage. "I made things really bad for myself," he tells the Herald.

But now, five months after joining forces with Augustin and the COMPASS program, Coulter says things are beginning to improve. "It's still a work in progress, but the [COMPASS] program got me better," he says. "I feel better overall -- physically, mentally and emotionally. Qualitatively, there's an improvement."

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