The Dark Side of the Island

The tragic story of a heroin dealing operation out of a family home in Vineyard Haven that spilled onto the pages of regional newspapers over the past two weeks has touched a raw nerve in the Island community. Reader comments on the Web sites for the two Island newspapers have covered a waterfront of emotion: surprise, anger, sadness, but perhaps unsurprisingly little sympathy for the family whose grown children were allegedly cutting and bagging heroin for sale just a short walk from the Tisbury elementary school. That in itself is a jarring mental image.

The six dealers, including three members of the Garde family, have been arrested and will have their day in court. The drugs have been confiscated.

But the bitter taste of it all lingers, and talk in the community has been at once mean-spirited and deeply concerned. These are the two faces of a small Island where everybody knows everybody else’s business.

It is even harder to venture into the darkest side of this story, which is the story of addiction and how it afflicts the lives of Islanders, along with depression and other forms of mental illness.

The late Dr. Milton Mazer, the Vineyard’s first psychiatrist and one of the founders of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, knew well the story of the Island’s struggle with addiction and depression, and he chronicled it in his pioneering psychological profile of the Vineyard titled People and Predicaments.

Much has changed on the Island since Dr. Mazer wrote his book and yet much has stayed the same.

Heroin drug busts make headlines for a day or two, but left untreated, addiction lasts a lifetime, ruining lives and families and communities.

And with the image still fresh in the mind of heroin ready for sale and a school playground just around the corner, there is no better time to talk about this problem than now.