That an island is hard to get to is part of its allure. This separation from “America” helps, in many ways, to keep the Vineyard relatively unspoiled, as well as facilitating its independent spirit.
However, the ocean buffer, which at times can feel like a friendly moat to keep intruders away, can also have the opposite effect when services are needed and the only place to get them is off-Island.
On Tuesday, the Vineyard Nursing Association closed its doors, at least the brick and mortar aspect of its operations on the Island. Now owned by Cape Cod Health Care, this vital organization will be administered off-Island. There are assurances that patients and the Island will not notice anything different, but the suddenness with which the closing took place caught Island boards of health off guard. We worry that already the lines of communication are no longer as solid as they were.
A few years ago representatives from the Social Security Administration would regularly visit the Island to answer questions and listen to the issues of our seniors. When it was announced that these visits would no longer take place, Islanders with questions more complicated than a phone call could answer had to travel off-Island to meet with a representative, a journey that can be difficult for many seniors. Cong. William Keating recently announced a new program featuring video conferencing so that, although an actual person will not be in the room, questions can once again be answered in real time while never leaving the Island. This is a step in the right direction, but sadly not every problem can be solved by new technology.
As reported in today’s Gazette, New Paths Recovery, the Island’s only intensive outpatient substance abuse program, is facing an uncertain future. Begun five years ago thanks to a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, the program has grown steadily. Currently it serves approximately 40 patients. However, the grant is about to expire.
In the best of circumstances, traveling off-Island can be a chore and difficult to manage. For an addict seeking help and treatment, any added complication makes it more likely that treatment will not be sought out or completed.
“The number one challenge is relapse,” said program coordinator Jillianne De La Hunt. Even getting in the door is a victory for many, she added.
We need to make sure that for all of our essential Island services, the door to victory does not always stand an ocean away.