Detox pilot program off to a good start

The Martha's Vineyard Hospital has an agreement to send patients to the Gosnold treatment center in Falmouth and the Stanley Street Treatment and Resources in Fall River. —Stacey Rupolo

A new pilot program that aims to address substance use disorder (SUD) for people on the Vineyard is off to a successful start. About 18 people have been placed into detox centers off-Island since the middle of November, according to Julie Fay, executive director of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS).

Both the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) and MVCS have entered into an agreement, signed on Nov. 2, 2016, with two two treatment centers — Gosnold in Falmouth, and Stanley Street Treatment and Resources (SSTAR) in Fall River — that give Islanders priority access. The centers will immediately find a bed for any Islander who voluntarily chooses to receive detox services and is assessed by the MVH Emergency Department, MVH Substance Use Disorder Team, or MVCS staff.

“It’s pretty quick access to a bed, which hasn’t been the case in the past,” Ms. Fay told The Times on Tuesday.

The program has been made possible by a generous anonymous donation. It will enable clinicians to access transportation, short-term housing, and pay other expenses associated with facilitating detox placement.

A majority of the individuals who have traveled off-Island to receive treatment, Ms. Fay said, were escorted to and from the centers with a recovery coach. MVCS recently hired eight recovery coaches, and they help guide the patient and loved ones through the process, accompanying the patient on the boat, and making sure he or she gets to the facility, which means passing liquor stores, bars, and places where drugs are readily available.

The recovery coach will also be at the facility when the patient checks out. Once Islanders have completed detox, they will either enter a treatment program on the mainland or come home.

Ms. Fay said the coaches are a crucial aspect to treatment, coordinating care after an individual has gone to a treatment center and “coming up with a game plan for the next step.”

Joe Woodin, chief executive officer of MVH, said the program is going well, and that MVH and MVCS are pleased with how responsive the off-Island facilities have been.

“Overall, I think everybody feels we’re getting much more responsive services for detox beds, and we will continue to measure it — both the volume and the experience,” he told The Times on Wednesday.

He said the recovery coaches are a vital addition to the process. “It’s really made a difference in this construct,” Mr. Woodin said.

Mr. Woodin and Ms. Fay presented the pilot to a number of groups on-Island, and people have already noticed a difference, which Mr. Woodin called “encouraging.”

“The numbers are still fairly slow, but after six months to a year, we can begin to better assess them,” Mr. Woodin said. “At first take, it seems significantly better than what we had.”

To access this service, call the SUD emergency team at MVH at 508-684-4600 or the MVCS emergency line, 508-693-0032.