VYFS substance use treatment program grows to meet Island’s need


“When my clients make progress I can see it in the way they walk,” describes Tom Walsten, “I feel their self-esteem growing, and recognize their renewed relationships with family and friends.”

Tom recently celebrated his one year anniversary as Vashon Island’s only licensed Substance Use Disorder Professional. Tom is realizing his goal of growing the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) services available on-Island, including being recognized as a King County preferred provider. This recognition is a strong indicator of VYFS’s growing success providing SUD treatment on Vashon.

Although group meetings have been cancelled or gone online because of the pandemic, Tom has increased the amount of 1-on-1 time he spends with his clients, either remotely or outside with social distancing. During the COVID crisis, 1-on-1 meetings allow Tom to provide the extra care and personal attention his clients need as they face heightened anxiety and stressors.

Vashon Youth and Family Services has specifically increased outreach and counseling for youth and young adults, a chronically underserved age group on Vashon in spite of high drug and alcohol usage levels. “It comes as no surprise that COVID has increased triggers, strained relationships and amplified anxiety. But young adults are very concerned about privacy and the stigma attached to SUD, which keep them from seeking help. So I am working to establish strong, trusted referral channels with partners like Vashon High School,” he explains, “Ultimately I’d like to get SUD classes integrated into the High School’s Health curricula.”
Tom’s 1-on-1 counseling with young adults is a critical front-line effort to address SUD before it develops into a more destructive force in their lives. “It is difficult for young adults to commit to treatment. 1-on-1 counseling is definitely better for them. Once I’ve gained their trust, it’s easier for them to relax and open up with me than in group settings,” he says, “This is when I can help them the most.”

“My experience with VYFS outpatient treatment has been really great and continues to have a positive impact on my life,” describes one client. “I have been meeting with Tom on a regular basis and he has been very helpful. As I continue down the road of recovery I have also decided to seek mental health counseling through VYSF to avoid depression and anxiety. VYFS has had a really positive impact on my life and I am so lucky to have these services available on-Island.”

Donations from the Vashon community help cover the costs of counseling for youth and young adults. Please give today to support the health and well-being of our Island’s youth and others in need of SUD treatment and support.