As heroin and prescription drug abuse has surged on Martha’s Vineyard, residents and health professionals alike have been confronted with the growing problem of no short-term care on Island. For years, people with acute substance abuse problems on the Vineyard have had the option of being sent home once cleared by psychiatric personnel or having to be hospitalized off-Island, with no measure in between.

“In many cases someone may be just on the edge of hospitalization,” said Rich DeTucci, the program director at the Island Counseling Center. In these cases, however, the patient is still hospitalized due to the fact that there is no alternative for outpatient care. But Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has spent more than a year working on a plan in collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to establish a new short-term outpatient care facility to cope with the problem and provide a new option for treating substance abuse.

Unlike most communities in Massachusetts, the Vineyard lacks what is termed a crisis stabilization unit, where patients can be evaluated and assisted in the short term in lieu of being fully hospitalized. In September 2014 the Red House, a building previously used by the hospital for its billing department, was offered by hospital chief executive officer Timothy Walsh as a space for a new crisis center. Now, following months of work and planning, the center is close to becoming a reality.

Funding for the project came initially from the Tower Foundation with a $50,000 grant. Recently the Pat Gregory Memorial Golf Tournament raised more than $10,000, giving a significant boost to the Red House.

Addiction is a serious problem on the Vineyard year round, health and law enforcement leaders have long known. But rates of abuse spike in the winter months during and after holidays, according to Community Services, when work becomes more scarce, in part a consequence of the Island’s seasonal-based economy.

Red House hopes to have its program up and running before the end of the year.

The new facility will feature two beds, along with areas for group and individual therapy that will be used by the Community Services long-term care program New Paths, which follows the matrix model of routine group therapy.

“This is a great opportunity for New Paths to create an even better image for itself,” said Mr. DeTucci. “To be in this nice location and be contiguous to these programs. We can really utilize every aspect of our recovery programs.”

Even further down the line of substance abuse recovery, there is a large amount of optimism and enthusiasm about the potential the Red House center can bring.

“We’re very excited that someone is taking on the role of providing short-term stabilizing services,” said Dawn Holand, managing director of Vineyard House, a home for people recovering from substance abuse. “Our mission is to provide safe, sober housing for Islanders in early recovery, and we recognize there are needs in the substance abuse care continuum that are not being met,” she said.

The larger idea is that the Red House can provide an alternative to being treated in the emergency room or having to go off-Island for care. Instead, patients can be analyzed or treated in the Red House before another course of action is taken, over a period of around two to three days. After this, existing long-term care programs like New Paths and Vineyard House on the Island can be used to continue treatment and recovery.

The location of the Red House is also being seen as a way to unite substance abuse recovery services on the Island around a hospital campus.

“The best way we saw to do this was to co-locate the recovery programs near the ER,” said Juliette Fay, executive director of Community Services. “That way, we have the medical aspect right there if we need it.”

Community Services is additionally attempting to address concerns of youth substance abuse and mental health recovery. Crisis stabilization units in other parts of the state typically serve both adolescent and adult patients, and the Red House is hoping to eventually ease into this area as well.

“You can have situation where a student athlete hurts himself, and starts using painkillers,” said Ms. Fay. “And the potential for abuse is right there. This can affect kids too.”

But while youth assistance is a clear goal, detox is another issue entirely. Currently, a detox unit would be financially infeasible, according to Ms. Fay, who echoes the sentiments of the hospital.

“You just don’t have the scale to support that detox model,” she said. “But there are other kinds of detox we’re looking at, like ambulatory detox.”

A typical crisis stabilization unit has around 26 beds, a far cry from the two that the Red House will support. Community Services has, however, looked at doing a pilot program with insurance companies for a smaller detox model, like ambulatory detox, which is more common on the mainland and not as cost intensive as the traditional inpatient detoxification.

“Call it detoxification, but we like to think of it as more community intervention,” said Mr. DeTucci on the potential for an ambulatory detox program.

For now, the Red House will focus on short-term recovery care, evaluations for hospitalization, and a center for the Island’s outpatient recovery programs like New Paths which will take advantage of the building’s group therapy quarters. The new integration is designed to provide a better response to substance abuse and give Community Services more options in dealing with patients. “It’s better care, it’s better coordinated care, and it’s going to reduce the hospitalization rate,” said Ms. Fay. “That’s our plan.”