After more than a year pursuing a state license, a small treatment center on Penikese island is preparing to open its doors.
The newly-licensed Penikese, a program for adolescent boys with substance abuse and mental health issues, expects to open June 23.
“We are gratified to have this opening date in our sights,” said Ted Doyle, a member of the board of directors.
Penikese operated as a full-time school for troubled youth from 1973 to 2011 before closing its doors due to a lack of funding.
This past year, the board has been working to reopen the facility as a recovery program, but ran into some roadblocks in the state licensure process. The original opening date was set for summer of 2013.
Mr. Doyle said the state Department of Public Health had raised good questions that were difficult to address. Most of these concerned the accessibility of the facility to a diverse set of kids as well as client safety in connection with the remote island setting.
In the meantime, the group had planned to move temporarily to New Hampshire, but they ultimately decided to focus on the Penikese site.
“The island itself is in pretty good shape and ready to accept kids,” Mr. Doyle said. “We are at this point beginning the outreach program to attract students.”
While the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) does not require full accessibility, Penikese must continue to work toward increasing its ability to cater to a variety of needs over time.
Penikese is a 75-acre island in the Elizabeth islands chain, situated next to Cuttyhunk. It takes one hour to reach the island by boat from the mainland.
The youth program shares the island with a state-owned bird sanctuary. Electricity there is generated by a solar array and water is pumped from a set of cisterns on the Island.
The Penikese Island School was founded in 1973 by George Cadwalader, a former marine. The school served adolescents who were involved with the criminal justice system and were unable to receive schooling in a traditional environment. Staff and clients at the school included many Vineyarders over the years. The now-defunct school received public funding and kept students for six to nine months. It closed in February 2011 due to a shortage of funding.
The new program will serve a maximum of 10 clients at a time, keeping them for shorter lengths of time. Kids will stay between several weeks and a couple of months, depending on the their presenting issues and progress in the program. Mr. Doyle said the Island presents a therapeudic environment for teens to begin recovery, but that it’s also important to give them a chance to test out their recovery in a conventional environment.
“You have to gauge that balance carefully,” he said.
Despite the long wait for a license, morale at Penikese has remained optimistic, Mr. Doyle said.
“I would say we have never lost hope,” Mr. Doyle said. ”We knew what a special place Penikese was and we knew there would never be a time when the world didn’t need a place like Penikese. It is too unique and powerful.”