When the Youth Task Force began 15 years ago, programs for teens and children struggling with substance abuse on Martha’s Vineyard were scarce. In fact, there wasn’t much of a grasp on the problem because the last youth risk behavior survey had been conducted in 2000.

That study had been done by the regional high school. But as Youth Task Force board member Cindy Doyle recalled, the high school wasn’t inclined to continue surveying students, because they had been partly blamed for the problem — and for not solving it.

“Our rates of use were higher than the state and national averages,” Mrs. Doyle said.

The Youth Task Force was created to fill the void. Fifteen years later the rate of drinking among Island students has dropped, at least by their own reporting. In the most recent survey, students who said they had consumed an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days was 20 per cent lower than in the 2000 survey.

The task force began in 2004 with two grants obtained by Mrs. Doyle, Mike Joyce and Bill Jones, the latter two guidance counselors in the public schools. Theresa Manning and Jamie Vanderhoop were hired as full-time staffers. Today the task force has broadened to include some 50 members of the Island community, among them representatives from Island schools, law enforcement, health care and the Wampanoag tribe.

Ms. Manning and Ms. Vanderhoop embarked on a mission to combat underage drinking rate through education. They believed it would be a more effective strategy than the old “Just Say No” campaign begun by First Lady Nancy Reagan to combat youth drug use.

They also focused on parents.

“We’re always looking for areas in the community to close the gaps, help educate parents and help give resources to the community to do a better job of sending a clearer message. That’s what we see as having longstanding change,” Ms. Manning said.

The task force held chat and chowder dinners for parents where they would discuss creating boundaries, sending clear messages and developing individual family values. A sticker campaign at package stores highlighted the penalties for supplying alcohol to minors.

And they kept up with student surveys, and displaying the results at the regional high school and middle schools to show that many Island kids were choosing not to drink. Posters offered examples of other activities for Island teens besides drinking. The task force sponsored after-prom parties at Alex’s Place at the YMCA.

In recent years, Ms. Manning said the focus has shifted to the growing use e-cigarettes and the legalization of marijuana. The task force has brought Dr. Ruth Potee to the Island several times to speak about the physiology of addiction and the effects of drugs on the adolescent brain.

The next phase, Ms. Manning said, involves becoming an independent, nonprofit organization.

“We were housed under the umbrella of the county, but recently we felt strong enough to apply for our own nonprofit status which we received,” she said.

The task force received nonprofit status in 2017, making it eligible to apply for additional revenue streams including government and state grants. Last year the task force sought financial support from Island towns and will do so again this year.

“We couldn’t do it without maintaining those positive relationships in the community,” Ms. Manning said. “Being true to what we say and what we’re going to do, we try to stay really focused on the safety net and really try to do things that you may not know are happening. It reaches a market of people that need to hear that message.”