On Saturday, Feb. 8, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of the Peer Recovery Support Center at the Red House, adjacent to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH). The center is a collaboration between M.V. Community Services and the M.V. Hospital, and is funded by the Department of Public Health (DPH). Members of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the Vineyard recovery community, the Peer Recovery Center staff and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, were on hand to see the new facility.
Julie Fay, M.V. Community Services executive director, welcomed the assembled group, and told them how honored and surprised she was to have received the grant from the DPH that made the new facility possible. The contract is for $400,000 a year for the next five years, and Fay explained that such contracts are generally evergreen, meaning that they will be extended indefinitely.
Fay singled out Catherine Flynn of M.V. Community Services, who drew up the RFP, saying, “The state went out of their way to recognize how well the RFP was written.”
The contract was one of only eight such contracts awarded by the state. “We were floored when we won, especially given that we are such a small community of around 17,000 people,” Fay said.
Final touches were being given to the center up to the time of the opening ceremony. It’s an attractive, airy space with room for offices, a large meeting room, and a full kitchen.
The Peer Recovery Support Center is a place for people who are in recovery from mental health or substance abuse issues, and it’s a safe and clean place to be, where there are all kinds of activities and supports available to people who are looking to sustain a path to recovery. “There are multiple paths to recovery,” Fay said in an interview with The Times, “12-step programs, faith-based programs, medicated assisted treatments (MATs) … the center will embrace all of these approaches.”
Peers with life experience will offer guidance and support for members, and educational and employment opportunities will be offered as well. To begin with, the center will have a staff of four, headed up by program director Jeremy Norton.
Fay explained that the project would not have been possible without the collaboration of the M.V. Hospital. It’s another example of how the two organizations are trying to integrate behavioral health and primary care. “They’ve given us the Red House, the little property adjacent to the hospital on their campus, to house our center,” Fay said. “We have a 10-year lease with them for $1 a year. They’re our partners; we’re really thrilled they’ve stepped up like this, it’s a great engagement between the hospital and Community Services. Our four staff members wouldn’t have been possible without their generosity.”
Fay also thanked DPH, the M.V. Community Services board, the recovery community, and all the towns on the Island, particularly the town of Oak Bluffs, where the center is located.
“Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is happy to have been able to collaborate with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services again,” said Denise Schepici, president and CEO of MVH and Windemere, “and for such an important community resource. This center will help provide much-needed support for people in recovery. Congratulations to M.V. Community Services and the hard work they put into making this new center a reality for our community.”
Fernandes told the group that each year, you could fill Gillette Stadium with the amount of deaths from opioids in the country, and that the Cape and Islands experience this crisis in more profound ways than a lot of the rest of the state and country.
“The priorities that matter are our own good health and the health of our loved ones,” Fernandes said. “I’m so thrilled for the $400,000 to be a recurring pledge from the state, and I want to give massive congratulations to [M.V. Community Services] and the hospital for their remarkable work.”
Norton concluded the ceremony with a moment of silence dedicated to “all the addicts we’ve lost, to those who are still suffering, and to those who want to join us.”
The ribbon was then cut by Norton, and the center was officially opened.