Reckoning with addiction: COMPASS leads to help

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By John Inscore Essick

Port Royal Baptist Church

If you drop by the COMPASS offices at 125 Park Road in New Castle during business hours, you will be greeted by friendly faces and welcoming smiles.  

When I visited Joan Miles and Stephanie Sharp Cravens on a sunny August afternoon recently, their offices were bathed in the kind of natural light that invites conversation and sharing.  

Hanging in the window behind Miles’ desk is a fabric square with an image of a compass, a fitting window shade for an office devoted to assisting others in their efforts to locate support groups, counseling, detox, and outpatient and inpatient services for substance abuse and addiction.

The COMPASS program, which began a little over a year ago amidst escalating jail costs and recidivism rates associated with drug use, is the brainchild of Judge Diana Wheeler of Kentucky’s 12th district court.  

The funding for Miles and Cravens’ work to connect people with help comes from Tri-County Community Action Agency and the fiscal courts of Henry, Oldham, and Trimble counties.  COMPASS serves the residents of all three counties, and many clients are from Henry County or face criminal drug charges in Henry County.

The COMPASS program exists to provide guidance, direction and resources for those who want help dealing with substance abuse and addiction.  

COMPASS does not provide treatment or counseling for substance abuse or addiction, but Miles and Cravens do coordinate with law enforcement, judges, treatment centers, recovery programs and community organizations.  

They connect COMPASS clients with available support services, treatment options and recovery possibilities.  They are constantly updating a growing database of regional addiction-related resources.  

Additionally, COMPASS is looking to develop and train a network of local volunteers and organize future educational programs throughout the tri-county area.

Miles and Cravens manage all this while juggling other responsibilities in addition to the COMPASS program.  

“Stephanie and I both just work part time in the COMPASS program,” Miles said, which means there is “basically, one full-time person” running the program and carrying out all the necessary duties.  The job is supposed to take 37.5 hours per week, but Cravens says that COMPASS work alone could fill 80 hours per week.

Even with the help of COMPASS, barriers to adequate help remain.  

When I asked about the most common barriers to getting into treatment, the conversation immediately turned to insurance and transportation.  

“Insurance is a big one,” Miles said, noting that their clients really “need someone to walk ‘em through” the insurance process.  Miles and Cravens can offer some assistance, but navigating the tangled web of insurance and/or Medicaid coverage for treatment and recovery options has only gotten more complicated since last year’s dismantling of Kynect, the state’s health exchange.

Insurance is a barrier, but the lack of adequate transportation stands out as the biggest hurdle to getting Henry Countians into treatment.   

COMPASS simply doesn’t have the “staff or funding,” Miles says, to help clients make it to all their meetings, appointments or court dates.  

On one occasion, they found an open bed for a client at a residential recovery program in Louisville, but the spot was given to someone else before the client could make it all the way to Louisville from Henry County.  

Too few beds and too little transportation.

Barriers notwithstanding, COMPASS is making a difference.  

The COMPASS resource list and network is growing, which means that, through Miles and Cravens, Henry Countians have greater access to the help we need.  

For the last year or so, as many as six people per day seek out Miles and Cravens for guidance, support, and resources for overcoming substance abuse.  

They make contact with many clients through the court system, but other clients simply call them on the phone or walk into their office.  

They are still working with their very first client, a testimony both to their patience and just how stubborn the disease of addiction can be.

COMPASS is a program that helps people like you and me every day.  COMPASS services are free to all residents, whatever the circumstance.  

“There is no dumb question,” they insist, without a hint of judgment or stigma.  

COMPASS is at its core two people ready and willing to help you or someone you love find help.  

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, go see that compass window shade for yourself.  

When you do, you’ll find the friendly faces of Joan Miles and Stephanie Sharp Cravens, who have been working for more than year to build relationships with people and programs who can be called upon in your time of need.  

And that, neighbors, is a sign of a community working in the right direction.

To contact COMPASS, call  (502) 845-7808, write 1625 Park Road, New Castle or e-mail joan@tricountycaaky.org or stephanie@tricountycaaky.org.


Rev. Dr. John Inscore Essick is co-pastor of Port Royal Baptist Church and Associate Professor of Church History at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown. 

Feedback is welcomed by e-mailing hopeinhenry@gmail.com.