Islanders in crisis — be it mental health or substance use — have a safe, quiet, private, and professional place to call home on Martha’s Vineyard. The Island Intervention Center (IIC), a subgroup of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), funded by the state Department of Mental Health, opened its doors in July 2017. Nearly two years later, the center released a review highlighting pilot program efforts and Islandwide impacts.
First and foremost, the IIC became a first line of defense for individuals struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. Prior to the program’s inception, Islanders had one choice for urgent care — the ER. Stigma, potential trauma, wait time, and cost all came along with emergency hospital visits, as did the likelihood of needing off-Island inpatient psychiatric care.
“With only having the emergency service program on-Island, we were sectioning people into private psychiatric beds at a much higher rate than organizations on the mainland,” said MVCS executive director Julie Fay. “And that’s because we didn’t have alternatives.”
Now, when individuals experience a need for care, there’s a team of professionals at 111 Edgartown Rd., Building C, ready to meet you wherever you’re at.
“People in emerging crisis or in crisis are now being funneled to the IIC rather than the hospital,” Fay said. Diversion was one of the program’s major goals met — and the numbers support it. The review shows a 37 percent decrease in inpatient psychiatric placements for all ages from 2017 to 2018.
“It’s about catching [people] upstream and hooking them up with resources,” said MVCS communications manager Mary Korba.
There are four components of the IIC: enhanced urgent care access, emergency services (MVCS counselors on-call 24/7 to perform a psychiatric exam at the hospital ER), medically assisted treatments (such as a Suboxone program, Vivitrol program, and other pharmaceutical interventions), and suicide prevention and awareness.
“We’ve done five trainings over the past 18 months with regard to suicide prevention,” said David Araujo, director of the IIC. Training efforts are another critical component of the pilot program.
“In April 2018, we formulated a training with local law enforcement,” Araujo continued. “Now they call us first, and we figure out the process going forward.”
In addition to working with law enforcement, the center has teamed up with MVRHS — which previously occupied the IIC building.
“We were very fortunate that the superintendent of schools and the high school principal made the space available on our campus underneath our clinic,” Fay said.
IIC’s location has a number of benefits — it’s right on the bus route, across the street from the high school, and because it’s on the MVCS campus, its outpatient mental health license covers third-party reimbursements.
“People showing up at the IIC are not greeted with a request for an insurance card, followed by a scramble to find an available clinician whose services are covered by that insurance,” the review said. “Rather, the IIC experience for someone in crisis is a private entrance to a quiet office with a well-trained clinician who is not strictly adhering to a 45-minute session.”
High school proximity also fosters a closer relationship with Island teenagers. “Guidance will walk a young person over, alert parents, and David and his gang will come up with a game plan,” Fay said.
In April 2018, the IIC and MVRHS launched a program that embeds IIC clinicians into the high school during flex periods. The program worked so well, MVCS plans to expand the program and embed clinicians in all Island schools K-8 in fiscal year 2020. “It just worked,” Fay said.
IIC services are also culturally responsive, with a bilingual staff.
“The Brazilian community were more likely to rely on church-related services for these kinds of matters,” Fay said. “We were not doing very well with that community for a very long time. All you have to do is watch a 6-year-old try to translate for their grandmother at the window of our counseling center to realize you have to do better. We made a commitment to be bilingual in all of our programs.”
All MVCS programs, except for disability services, have a person who’s bilingual and part of the Brazilian community. The review projects a 61 percent increase in Portuguese-speaking clients seeking urgent care over the next year.
Access to services was another major goal met. “Access is a lot of what this program is all about,” said Fay.
Early this month, MVCS received a $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to fund a recovery support center at the Red House — a building adjacent to the hospital, which was leased to MVCS in 2017.
“It’s a place for folks in recovery to come and spend time for recreational activities, support services, and housing assistance,” Fay said. “It’s a safe place for people in recovery.”
The Red House will provide another outlet of support for the IIC in fiscal year 2020.