Martha’s Vineyard Community Services was awarded $685,000 from the state to fund a two-year effort to bolster its workforce for community-based behavioral health and other social services.

The Oak Bluffs-based nonprofit announced last week that it received the grant from the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services. CEO Beth Folcarelli said it will help pay for six initiatives, some of which have been in the works for several years.

The funding comes at a crucial time for community services. The nonprofit offers an array of services, from aid for domestic violence victims to help for seniors, veterans, people with disabilities and mental health counseling.

But it currently has about 20 open positions, a number that can strain the staff of about 140 people.
“We are looking to not only attract the best talent, but to keep new talent and retain the existing wonderful workforce that we have presently,” Ms. Folcarelli said.

Among the new initiatives, the one Ms. Folcarelli is most excited for is training for mental health workers so they can respond with law enforcement officials to crisis interventions.

Ms. Folcarelli said she’s been working with Edgartown police chief Bruce McNamee and Oak Bluffs police chief Jonathan Searle on the idea.

“We’ve been trying to get that off the ground since my arrival to community services back in 2020,” she said this week. “We would have a trained staff and police force work jointly out in the community to respond to behavior health crisis situations.”

The grant will also help pay for child and behavioral health training with the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Education and Training, clinical residency programs, diversity outreach, and salary support for employees.

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services also plans to hold the first-ever Martha’s Vineyard Behavioral Health Conference late next year. Clinicians and supervisors from across the Island will get together to share ideas and learn from one another.