It’s a longstanding problem on the Vineyard: Islanders experiencing mental health and substance abuse crises spend much time in the emergency department waiting for the treatment they need.

Some wait two or three days in the ED, while Martha’s Vineyard Community Services staff scour the region for a free bed in an off-Island psychiatric facility or a substance detox unit.

But starting next year, many of these clients will instead be evaluated at a new crisis stabilization unit run by Community Services on hospital grounds.

The new program will serve clients 18 years and older, and is designed to reduce the number of people who are referred off-Island for inpatient care.

The rate of hospitalization for Vineyard adults is four times that on the mainland, said Community Services executive director Juliette Fay, a cause for concern at her organization.

“The problem is that oftentimes there is a judgment call, and because there is no other level of care, we end up hospitalizing people,” Ms. Fay said.

She hopes to cut the hospitalization rate in half with a new two-bed unit which will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a building known as the red house, owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and situated in front of the hospital complex.

“When you are in crisis, there is a lot of adrenaline, so the idea is take the adrenaline and calm things down and take a fresh look several hours later,” Ms. Fay said. In many cases, hospitalization at that point will be unnecessary, she said. When clients come back from detox or another inpatient facility, they will have the option of staying at the red house for another stay.

Hospital president and chief executive officer Timothy Walsh said this week that the hospital had offered use of the space, which currently houses the billing department, last spring.

In talks several years ago with the state Department of Mental Health, Mr. Walsh said they had identified an acute need for a crisis stabilization program on the Island.

“So when Julie came to me, it sounded like the right thing to do and something that could really help the community,” he said.

Though new to the Vineyard community, crisis stabilization programs are common throughout the country, Ms. Fay said.

Renovations to the red house will begin after the first of the year, she said. She calculates that it will cost between $120,000 and $150,000 to establish the new program. The Tower Family Foundation has already donated $50,000 to help it get going.

The building, which Mr. Walsh estimated at 2,400 square feet, will have space for individual therapy, group therapy room, two crisis stabilization beds and a lounge and kitchen area.

The Community Services New Paths outpatient substance abuse program will move its services to the red house as well, creating a “good synergy of clinicians to work with folks and their families who are in crisis,” Ms. Fay said. The unit will be staffed by Community Services clinicians and a new nurse, who has already been hired.

Though the unit will serve clients with substance abuse issues, it will not be a detox and clients with medical needs will have to be seen in the emergency department. Mr. Walsh said while there is a dire need for addiction services, there are not enough patients to justify a quality detox unit at the hospital. “There is not enough volume,” he said. “As much as there is a big problem on the Island, there are a lot of infrastructure, personnel, resources and different services that are needed to operate a detox unit.”

The hospital has hired consultants to look into a detox model in the past, but it never worked out. “We are very small and a lot of this stuff, to do it right, you have to have the right numbers,” he said. “And it’s not just financial, it’s also quality. The more you do, the better off you are at doing it.”

Mr. Walsh said if a feasible solution was presented, he’d be all ears. “If someone had an idea to make it work financially or to make it come close to working financially, we’d look into it,” he said.

Community Services has signed a five-year agreement with the hospital for use of the red house, and will pay utilities but no rent.