In the past, staff at the Gosnold rehabilitation center on Cape Cod have seen Vineyard patients board the boat back to the Island and worried about their fragile state, knowing there was no day program for therapy and support. Now with the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services New Paths Recovery Program, all that has changed.
Community Services has launched a new intensive day-treatment program through the Island Counseling Center to treat Islanders with substance abuse and related disorders through group sessions, individual consultations and family education services that allow patients to work while rebuilding their lives.
In a recent interview, Island Counseling Center program director Alice Cook and New Paths coordinator Jillianne De La Hunt spoke about the program which officially began two weeks ago. Ms. Cook and Ms. De La Hunt said they had concerns about launching the program in the middle of the summer. But they knew it was needed, so they went ahead despite the timing. The program began with three patients and is expected to grow to 13 this week.
“The community’s talked about it and it’s finally in fruition here. It’s finally coming to be,” Ms. Cook said. “The community has always felt a need for it, it’s been a question of how do you get it up and running, and have the resources to do it.”
Ms. Cook said Community Services has always had a day program on its agenda, and the need became more prevalent after a community-wide committee came together last year to discuss substance abuse services on the Island. Gaps in programs were identified, and it was agreed that there was a pressing need for an intensive day support and therapy program for people recovering from substance abuse.
One week into it, Ms. De La Hunt said the response has been overwhelming. “‘Oh we’re so glad that this is finally happening’ has been the response universally,” she said. “It’s not just on-Island people, but the people that are doing these services off-Island as well; they’re saying, ‘Oh thank goodness.’”
Community Services is networking with sober programs on and off-Island for referrals, including Vineyard House, Gosnold, and High Point treatment centers, as well as 12-step programs on the Island.
“From talking to people, this is not intended to remove anything from any of those services,” Ms. De La Hunt said. “This is here to stitch in a piece that hasn’t been there. We all will have more ability to meet the needs of Islanders with this here.”
New Paths clients are in the early phases of recovery at a level one step down from an inpatient residential facility. “They’re not at a place where doing outpatient once or twice a week and doing meetings is going to help them in their recovery goals, because this is more intense than that.” Ms. De La Hunt said. “This is a piece that’s been missing, that you’ve had to go off-Island for.”
New Paths is adapting a model Ms. De La Hunt says has proven successful in other places: a 16-week program, with group therapy three times a week and daily attendance at 12-step meetings. “The reality of people’s lives, insurance coverage, and what people can sustain while they’re trying to weave a life better again — it makes it such that we are doing it in a more compact way,” she said.
The New Paths program runs for four to six weeks, with patients attending group sessions for three and a half hours in addition to individual check-in sessions. A minimum of three days a week attendance is required, and more is strongly encouraged. Ms. De La Hunt said some patients may need only an intensive two-week program to get them on track, while others may need longer. Right now group sessions are being held three times a week but will go up to five when there are more patients.
Admission is done on a rolling basis; incoming clients are consulted about their needs and within 24 hours will be enrolled in the program. Family group sessions are offered once a week in the evening, as well as a family support member education group. Clients are strongly encouraged to attend a 12-step or some other type of recovery support group meeting.
“A big part of the program is a family education group when both clients and families come,” Ms. De La Hunt said, adding: “There’s lots of information for families to learn about addiction, relapse and about how addiction impacts the entire family. We want to provide that education piece . . . A person will do a lot better with family support, but we understand that families are in different places.”
Ms. De La Hunt is the only full-time staff person for New Paths at the moment, although she and Ms. Cook expect the program to expand. Currently, New Paths is funded from a combination of patient insurance, a small co-pay and Community Services funds.
“We want to accommodate the needs of the Island, to be more self-sufficient as far as payments and support and to continue to fill the gap with services,” Ms. Cook said. “We want to improve in any way we can as funding allows, and expand and know more about the client base.”
Ms. De La Hunt agreed. “We have lots of thoughts about creating an after group that is drop-in, that people can come to, very much emphasizing peer recovery groups,” she said. “Eventually when we’re a larger program, we’ll be able to do what the larger off-Island places do where they can offer a morning session or evening session.”
Right now they are focused on figuring out what a day program on the Vineyard can realistically look like for a patient.
“You can’t live here and your support can’t all be here [at Community Services]; we want to be here for you very intensively and the goal is to create that in the community,” Ms. De La Hunt said. “But what a hard thing to do because your whole life has been dependent on substances and you live on an Island.”
For more information on New Paths Recovery Program call 508-693-7900, extension 397.