It all started with a phone call.
Last spring, as overdose fatalities on the Island continued to mount, West Tisbury Police Chief Dan Rossi called Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) executive director Julie Fay, to discuss a collaborative response to the epidemic.
That discussion led to a phone call to Jim Derick, founder of Support for Addicts and Families by Empowerment, or SAFE Coalition, in Norfolk.
SAFE is a group of volunteers, parents, and community stakeholders who formed an alliance to help the addicted and their families battle the deadly epidemic.
In June, Mr. Derick spoke to a packed crowd at MVRHS Performing Arts Center about the power, and necessity, of community collaboration when it comes to battling the multifaceted problem of addiction.
It was an emotional night. Three Islanders bravely shared their stories about the unfathomable depths they had plunged to under the weight of their addiction. They also shared a message of hope: All of them were in recovery, and doing well.
But the question would remain: What, if anything, would come out of that emotionally charged night?
The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) and MVCS’s new agreement with Gosnold and Stanley Street Treatment and Resources (SSTAR) is a direct result of that June evening (Jan. 5, “Islanders have priority access to two off-Island detox centers,” by Cameron Machell, and Jan. 12, “Collaboration the key to detox breakthrough,” by Barry Stringfellow).
Right after the event, stakeholders and concerned citizens gathered weekly to develop an action plan, action being the operative word.
Enter new MVH CEO Joe Woodin, who, coming from Vermont, was no stranger to the opioid epidemic. But he hadn’t faced the complication of working on an Island steeped in drug abuse that could not support the enormous expense of an inpatient detox facility.
The agreement Mr. Woodin and Ms. Fay quietly forged with Gosnold and SSTAR fills an enormous void on Martha’s Vineyard. This collaboration means the Islander who is ready to commit to in-patient detox will get a bed quickly; that his or her trip will be paid for if necessary, and that a recovery coach can accompany that person, so the road to temptation doesn’t become a detour on the road to recovery.
Vineyarders are decidedly the grateful beneficiaries of the tremendous resources MVH and MVCS bring to bear.
The fiduciary responsibility of these institutions requires that they protect themselves from strategic, market, and financial risks. The searing, personal nature of the addiction nightmare in our small community, and the growing involvement of a wide range of Island health and service organizations, have created the environment in which MVCS and MVH can make this leap of faith. We appreciate their community leadership, and see this first step as a model for channeling the strengths of institutional, governmental, community, and philanthropic resources to address complex local problems.
It also should not be lost in the story that the expenses of this program are being funded by an anonymous donation. Whoever that person is — we thank you. Six Islanders, and their families, have already benefited from that largess.
As we near Inauguration Day, and the handwringing ratchets up about slashed funding for health and human services, this new agreement shows what can be achieved on this Island, irrespective of how things go in Washington, when stakeholders collaborate.
MVCS emergency services can be reached 24/7, at 508-693-0032. The MVH Substance Use Disorder Team, also available 24/7, can be reached at 508-684-4600.
It all starts with a phone call.