A client finds life-saving help through Compass Health

She remembers those moments when help felt impossible.

When help was offered to her, she often thought it came undeservedly.

Terese Tomka put it simply: The years she spent diligently working on her mental health—with services provided by Compass Health—saved her life.

When she arrived at Compass Health center in 2013, Tomka faced issues that stemmed from abuse, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder conditions.

At that time, Tomka had a hard time accepting even help, let alone compliments, that people gave her. She said she felt like she couldn’t trust anyone; she was hurt. Tomka had problems with family relationships and often suffered from trauma from his service in the army.

“I’ve come a long way, and I always hear, ‘I’m proud of you,’ and it’s hard to take,” she said.

Tomka spoke with ease in her voice, although she shared that she was nervous about being interviewed.

Coming to Compass Health was the right choice, she said.

“I’ve learned that it’s normal to have mental health issues,” she said. “You’re going to work to get better. Compass Health — it saved my life, it saved my life.”

Her staff member Linda Johnson, sitting by her side, expressed admiration for Tomka’s hard work at the center, not only working on herself and her mental health, but maintaining an upbeat attitude throughout.

“You have to mention your positivity, I mean you are very, very positive. You make sure your surroundings make you feel good,” said Johnson, who is also an integrative health practitioner at Compass Health.

Johnson laughed and shook his head, saying he doesn’t see people changing their furniture as often as Tomka: “She makes an effort.”

Tomka agreed that she makes sure her space is comfortable and often spends on Christmas decorations as well. The act of decorating in red and green was recently in memory of her father, who she lost this time last year. Christmas was his favorite holiday.

“I am experiencing some grief. I lost my dad last year, so they taught me a lot about the proper way to grieve, instead of using my addictions to cover it up,” Tomka said.

Compass Health is a not-for-profit healthcare organization that offers comprehensive health, primary and dental services serving 46 counties in the state. Jefferson City facilities offer a 27/4 neighborhood crisis center.

Jamie McLeod, health supervisor, said the organization has specialist staff such as psychiatrists, staff, doctors and other professionals. They also offer different types of support, from substance abuse treatment to helping people apply for insurance benefits. Their focus is really on the “whole person,” McLeod said.

“We currently have a fast-track enrollment grant that will help them set up services right away until insurance benefits are approved,” McLeod said.

Anyone facing difficulty funding Compass Health services can work with the organization to eliminate that as a problem in getting treatment, she said. Compass Health Network just recently opened a new health center.

“And if someone is in crisis, they can just go next door and get services right away,” she said.

The Behavioral Health Crisis Center, or a program offered at several different locations called Crisis Access Point, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 227 Metro Drive.

The crisis center offers immediate help, a guide to community resources, and stabilization and shelter services for someone to receive 11-hour care, a shower, a change of clothes, and medication if needed. For less immediate care, an outpatient treatment center is located next door, and McLeod said anyone seeking care can just walk through those doors.

“We work on the whole person, our main goal is in our motto: to inspire hope and promote health,” McLeod said. “To hear that Therese thinks we saved her life, you have no idea what that means to me.”

Tomka said she is getting better at accepting compliments. Well, some days are better than others, and after nearly 10 years, she’s still working on it.

“I learned that I’m a really strong person because I thought about mental health: I’m weak. I learned that I was strong and I needed to be loved no matter what,” she said.

Tomka has one item on her Christmas wish list this year: health for her family.

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