To the Editor:
Earlier this week (June 12), a letter was published in The MV Times citing the prevalence and high cost of “substance abuse” (can we begin to use the medical term, substance use disorder, as we do with other diseases?) on the Island, stating that Denise Schepici, the new Hospital CEO, “did not seem particularly interested in identifying a role for the Hospital.”
That is a puzzling assertion, given the letter’s author is a member of the Island’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Coalition, and was present for Ms. Schepici’s response.
Here is why, as members of the SUD Coalition, we are optimistic about the response to Substance Use Disorders on our Island. Since early 2017, the SUD Coalition, which includes the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, local law enforcement, M.V. Community Services, Vineyard House, the ‘Y’, Island Health Center, Vineyard Health Care Access Program, the Youth Task Force, Dukes County, Learn 2 Cope, local health agents, and many committed individuals has:
- Developed a formal agreement with three off-Island detoxification programs to assure immediate access to detoxification;
- Recruited, trained and employed a cadre of recovery coaches at MVCS and M.V. Hospital to accompany patients to and from detoxification, and provide support for follow-up treatment;
- MV Hospital has employed primary-care doctors, licensed to provide medication-based treatment in conjunction with counseling services at MVCS;
- Started Learn 2 Cope, a family support group;
- M.V. Hospital has deployed a team of three clinicians that provide assessment, brief intervention, and appropriate referral to patients in the hospital;
- Employed an SUD outreach worker through funds appropriated by Dukes County;
- MVCS has opened an Urgent Care Center with capacity to respond to dual diagnoses, as well as provide medication-based treatment for both alcohol- and opioid-based disorders, as well as counseling and testing through the Island Counseling Center;
- Initiated a working group to explore the feasibility of an Island-based public health education effort focused on changing the Island’s culture of substance use.
Ms. Schepici’s response noted many of these efforts for which the hospital is responsible or involved, and also pointed to the need to better weave together these resources and strengthen access to treatment.
Is there room for improvement? You bet. But the assertion of lack of interest by the hospital or other parties is not supported by the record, and hardly a positive step forward. Significant gaps in the basic array of SUD treatment and prevention have been identified and closed by the community working together. SUD services will improve by continuing on that path.