Compass Academy: Giving Students Hope for the Future

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A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on February 1, 2019 at Broome-Tioga BOCES for their new program, Compass Academy. This hybrid alternative education model combines the BOCES Alternative Education program with clinical credentialed peer recovery support, allowing students to receive treatment and counseling for substance use while working to earn their high school diploma.

“The most important part of this program is that it’s a safe environment for students. They have the opportunity to feel safe with other students and be with other students who have had similar experiences and struggles,” shares Alicia Grunder, a licensed creative arts therapist who is both the clinical coordinator and staff coordinator for Compass Academy. The program splits the day into two portions. During the first portion, the students take courses at Evertech High School, the existing BOCES alternative education program. After that the students stay for three hours of treatment and recovery-oriented services such as counseling, group therapy, art therapy, mentoring, and family engagement which is run by the Addiction Center of Broome County (ACBC).

“Our recovery high school model was maybe a little bit different from the historical version,” remarks Carmela Pirich, Executive Director at ACBC. “We wanted to be sure that we provided something that was less disruptive to their natural day, that we were able to work with them in the community and with their families so that hopefully we aren’t necessarily seeing kids that have to be removed from their home, and sent out of town for in-patient treatment.”

Students may enter the program at any time during their high school years and at any time during the academic year. Typically, a Compass Academy student is enrolled in a school within the BT BOCES region, that is experiencing academic and/or behavioral issues related to substance use. The program allows them the ability to achieve their regent’s diploma, with the potential to meet NYS graduation requirements.

In addition to BT BOCES and ACBC partners across the region include area school districts, Ascension Health Youth Services Division, Care Compass Network (CCN), and Broome County Departments of Health and Mental Health. OASAS has provided funding to ACBC for clinical start-up with local foundations and government providing supplemental funding. Area clinicians and human service agencies contributed expertise to the program design and helped to lead community outreach and education efforts. “There’s a lot of dedicated partnerships and individuals behind this student-centered program,” remarks Bouakham Rosetti, Project Manager for Care Compass Network’s Projects 3ai, Behavioral Health and Primary Care Integration, and 4aiii, Strengthening Mental Health & Substance Use Infrastructure.

A key component of Compass Academy’s success lies in school districts understanding what Compass Academy can do for students and helping to detect, at an early stage, substance use in their students. School personnel can refer students to the program through the school district’s existing BOCES Alternative Education referral process.

“In acknowledging the fact that behavioral health conditions impact physical health we need our community and the health care systems to be fully aware of the resources available. This alone helps to improve care coordination, advocacy, and recovery on behalf of our children. Also, there needs to be greater awareness of the implications of not identifying substance use or behavioral health needs early on in a child’s life,” says Rosetti. To address this gap, Bouakham Rosetti has formed the CCN Regional ACEs Taskforce which kicked off on April 4, 2019.

Want to learn more about BOCES Compass Academy?
For questions about the program and how it works, please contact Jeff Franey, Broome-Tioga BOCES, or Alicia Grunder, Addiction Center of Broome County,