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community services

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Martha’s Vineyard Hospital donated a house that will be used to fill a critical gap in addiction and mental health treatment on the Island.

Community Services executive director Julie Fay and hospital chief executive officer Tim Walsh stand in front of the new home of the community crisis stabilization program.

In what health professionals describe as a major step forward in providing care for Islanders in crisis suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), will establish an on-Island community crisis stabilization program (CCSP) on the grounds of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, confirmed to The Times the hospital will donate  the “red house,” a former residential property located in front of the main hospital building that currently houses the billing department, to Community Services, the Island’s umbrella social services agency.

A CCSP treats patients in acute distress due to addiction or mental health issues for the first 24 to 48 hours of a crisis. It’s a less restrictive and voluntary alternative to inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. The goal of a CCSP is to stabilize the patient, to give clinicians time to chart an appropriate course of action, and to find the resources with which to implement it, according to treatment specialists.

“It’s going to be a huge resource for the Island,” Juliette Fay, Community Services executive director, told The Times. “When somebody is in crisis and needs evaluation, instead of going to the emergency department they’ll come to the red house. There will be individual therapy rooms, a group therapy room, crisis-stabilization beds, clinicians that are tied to emergency services, and also staff from our New Paths program.”
Currently when MVCS gets a call on the 24-hour hotline, a clinician is sent to the hospital emergency room to make an evaluation and determine if the person needs to go off-Island for inpatient care. Ms. Fay said the CCSP will spare people in crisis the cacophony and chaos of a busy emergency room.

“The emergency room staff has been wonderful, but a busy ER is not a good place to try to calm a situation down,” she said. “Consequently we have a very high rate of hospitalization. Right now, on the Island, 60 percent of the people we evaluate in the ER get hospitalized; off-Island it’s somewhere between 12 and 15 percent.”

A CCSP is not a detox facility, but the treatment it provides can potentially help an Islander avoid the onerous ordeal of going to an off-Island clinic.

“We don’t have to do an evaluation right away,” Ms. Fay said. “24 hours or 48 hours of crisis-intervention activity can forestall an evaluation and come up with a plan B, which is not going off-Island. Often when people are in the ER, that’s just the beginning of the ordeal. Our clinicians then have to start calling inpatient facilities, and finding an open bed is not easy. Once they find a bed they have to arrange an ambulance to the ferry, an ambulance on the ferry, and an ambulance to meet the ferry on the mainland to take the patient to the facility, which could be in Springfield or the Cape or Boston, you don’t know.”
A CCSP can also save valuable hospital resources. Currently, it’s not uncommon for a patient who could be treated in a CCSP setting to stay in the hospital ER for several days before a bed is found at an off-Island facility. During this time, patients who could be starting treatment in a CCSP are in a state of limbo, and often the patient requires 24-hour supervision from hospital staff or law enforcement personnel.

Collaboration pays off

Ms. Fay, Community Services staff, and board members began discussing the need for a CCSP about a year ago.

“We thought if we had access to a crisis-intervention program we could probably cut our hospitalization rate in the first year,” she said. “We thought if we could do it at the hospital, that would be ideal. About four months ago, Tim Walsh offered us the red house, and things really came together.”

“Initially, Community Services wanted to set up in the old hospital building, but that was problematic for the Medicare reimbursement process,” Mr. Walsh told The Times.

Mr. Walsh said the question was how to provide a venue that would work but be separate and accessible: “Having the red house where everything is separate, and where we can keep all the expenses separate, is a better solution for us.” Mr. Walsh invited MVCS representatives to inspect the red house at the beginning of the summer. “They thought it was a really good fit. With that, we started trying to accelerate our own renovations in the old hospital so we could get the billing department in there as soon as possible. We have a lot of balls in the air, like renovations to the dialysis unit, but we’re hoping that we can be out of there by December, January, so we can hand it over to Community Services and if they’re ready to start something, they can.”

Getting ready

MVCS will be ready, according to Ms. Fay. “We have a private donor who has made funds available to do the startup,” she said, adding that she has also met with commissioners from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and Department of Mental Health (DMH) to obtain additional funds and to navigate the bureaucratic maze.“We may have a volunteer architect, but we haven’t finalized that yet,” she said.

Estimated renovations will take two to three months, during which time MVCS staff will be trained in crisis-intervention stabilization. “It’s a very different model from what is used in emergency rooms,” Ms. Fay said. “You work proactively with individuals and family members about how to keep somebody safe in the community instead of going off-Island for inpatient care.”

The CCSP will be staffed on an as-needed basis. “We don’t think there will always be someone in the red house, but when someone is, we are committed to provide 24/7 staffing,” Ms. Fay said.

Contrary to the usual ebb and flow on the Island, the winter and spring will be the busiest time for the CCSP. “Our busiest time is January through May; that comports with a seasonal economy, the dark months,” she said.
If all goes as planned, the CCSP will be operational before the dark months on the Island have passed.

“You have to give all the accolades to Julie,” Mr. Walsh said. “I’ve been an advocate for a crisis-intervention center for years, but she really pulled it all together and made it happen.”

Ms. Fay said MVCS still needs funding to keep the momentum going for the CCSP. Donors can contact her at 508-693-7900.

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Close to $400,000 raised to support Community Services.

Boston-based comedian Jimmy Tingle began the evening with a short standup routine. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ most significant charity event, the annual Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction, took place on Sunday evening, July 27,at the Winnetu Resort in Katama.  Very humid air throughout the event did little to stifle the zeal and altruism shown by those gathered. Spurred by Jimmy Tingle’s comedy-laced auctioneering and Guinevere Cramer’s charm, 267 paddle holders bid nearly $200,000 on “dreams” ranging from a private poker night with card shark Jesse Sylvia, to a Kenneth Vincent painting executed during the course of the auction, to a prehistoric art adventure in France with noted archaeologist Duncan Caldwell.

A donor to the auction for nearly a decade, Mr. Caldwell summed up three reasons for doing so while also shedding a bit more light on the trip he donated this year.

Island all-star Guinevere Cramer often wandered the aisles while talking to Jimmy Tingle.
Island all-star Guinevere Cramer often wandered the aisles while talking to Jimmy Tingle.

“The first is that this Island has provided me with a home and home-away-from-home amid a diverse and neighborly community since I was born,” he said. “The second is that Dolly Campbell and her colleagues at the Thrift Store were kind to my wife and me, when we were struggling to build and furnish our house here. The third is that the auction has repeatedly given us the opportunity to meet generous people who have jumped at the chance to see things that stretch the mind with questions and awe. This year’s winners [winning bidders] are especially lucky, since they’ll see some monumental new discoveries, including one of the most elaborate early Neolithic friezes in western Europe — which were just announced in an article I co-authored in ‘Antiquity.’”

Thanks to donors’ willingness to grant under-bidders the opportunity to buy certain lots they’d lost out on at the winning bid price, the dollar value of several items sold at the auction was multiplied by two, and in at least one instance by three.

“Obviously the generosity of our donors was amazing,” said Nell Coogan, MVCS Director of

Dozens of volunteers were scattered throughout the auction to identify bidders.
Dozens of volunteers were scattered throughout the auction to identify bidders.

Development and Community Relations, “Skip Gates once again doubled his dream donation [Who are you? lot, an individualized DNA exploration] and Allen Whiting was truly a magnificent surprise — tripling his auction item is absolutely amazing as it means he not only donates three paintings, but he will go with three different winning bidders to paint their landscape!

Jack Davies was also very generous — offering to double his dream and then donating $5,000 on top of his dream donation.” Mr. Davies donated a night drinking and dining with the owners of the Washington Capitals while watching the team play.

“Nat Philbrick and the KelDi was a huge hit,” Ms. Coogan said. “Something we were so excited about and it truly paid off this year!”

Indeed it was the Nat and Nantucket lot, a cruise to Nantucket on the 27.43 meter Burger motor yacht KelDi, followed by some quality time with author Nathaniel Philbrick, that landed the largest single bid, $13,000.

Prior to the main sale, five dozen items were offered at a silent auction dubbed “Silent Dreams.” Among the lots bidders hoped to win were opportunities to see their name in a novel, to meditate through belly dancing, or to dine at restaurants such as Lucky Hanks. The highest bid of the silent auction was $1,400 for a Norman Bridwell watercolor.

Sponsorships contributed significantly to the Possible Dreams bottom line this year. Technology titan HP gave $35,000, while media and communications giant Comcast/NBC-Universal gave $20,000, handily making them the top two sponsors.

The Possible Dreams fundraiser was at Winnetu Beach Resort for only the second time.
The Possible Dreams fundraiser was at Winnetu Beach Resort for only the second time.

“Comcast is committed to supporting the communities where our employees and customers live and work, and we’re proud to work closely with vital organizations such as Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which has positively impacted the lives of so many Vineyarders. We applaud their work and were thrilled to once again join many other businesses in sponsoring this wonderful event,” said Tim Murnane, Comcast’s vice president of external affairs for the Greater Boston Region.

“We had nearly $100,000 in sponsorships, both individual and corporate,” said Ms. Coogan, “as well as generous donations from folks who just wanted to give to us but who did not buy ‘dreams’ — which was more than $85,000 total!” There was also an old-time raffle that brought in another $5,000 to bring the grand total raised — including auctions, raffles, donations and sponsorships — to almost $400,000 for the evening.

More than 100 volunteers worked the auction as bookkeepers, caterers, runners, parking assistants, and technicians, among other roles.

“The volunteers were amazing,” Ms. Coogan said. “And the staff of the Winnetu was so warm and helpful — truly, great partners. Jimmy Tingle and Guinevere Cramer had great chemistry and enjoyed themselves, though they worked hard, that’s for sure!”

Julie Fay, executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, who, like Ms. Coogan, wore a Stina Sayre dress during the auction in promotion of the Island Fashionista lot, explained what the money raised on Sunday will ultimately facilitate.

Traeger DiPietro stands up to celebrate winning an auction prize.
Traeger DiPietro stands up to celebrate winning an auction prize.

“The event raised much needed funds to support our existing Community Services programs and services and will help with some of the new programs we are rolling out during the coming year,” she said. “We intend to expand our services for Island Veterans and their families — more than 400 Vets live on Island. Community Services will also be starting a crisis intervention and hospital diversion program. We have also been working with a number of other organizations on Island — YMCA, M.V. schools, M.V. Hospital, Youth Task Force  — to establish the Island-Wide Youth Collaborative which is a care continuum for adolescents and their families struggling with behavioral health and substance abuse issues. Our intent is to make a wide array of services available for the first time on Island.”


Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the last name of local poker champion Jesse Sylvia as Silva.

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To the Editor:

On Saturday, April 12, we were blessed with yet another sunny, successful electronics disposal day here at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

We appreciate everyone who came out and helped us raise funds for all of our programs here at MVCS. We thank the staff, board, and community for supporting our agency and for dumping their electronics responsibly.

A heartfelt thank you to Bruno’s, and especially Scott Carroll, who truly put more than his fair share of energy into the day, helping us to streamline and organize prior to the event, as well as sticking with us all day long to ensure items were disposed of correctly.

Thank you as well to Community Corrections (thanks to Brian Kennedy), the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Boys Hockey Team (thanks to Coach Matt Mincone), those who came from the youth sports programs (thanks to Coach Sterling Bishop), those from Saturday School (thanks to Matt Malowski), members of the Tribal Youth Program (thanks to June Manning), and our fabulous board (John Kennedy, Wiet Bacheller, Bob Egerton Jr., June Manning, Dianne Durawa, and Sandy Pimentel) and staff members (Mary Korba, Meredith Magin, Jennifer Neary, Pam Holmlund, Alicia Nicholson, Liz Burnham, and Amy Custis), many of whom brought significant others, friends, and/or their children or grandchildren to assist as well.

A huge thank you from the entire agency.

Nell Coogan


Development & Community Relations

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services