On a beautiful Island like Martha’s Vineyard where so many seek pleasure, rest and rejuvenation, it is hard to imagine that residents struggle with the same problems of living experienced in other rural communities. In reality, the year-round population of 16,000 is one of the poorest in the Commonwealth and has one of the highest incidences of mental health and substance abuse. With a seasonal economy and a high cost of living, the Vineyard can be a very difficult place to live for those without the emotional, financial, or social resources available to help them cope with personal, health, and family problems.
In 1961, a committed group of Island clergy and family physicians saw beyond the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard and the strength of the Island community to those struggles beneath. With a deep concern for the health and stability of their neighbors, they recruited then summer resident Dr. Milton Mazer as a full-time psychiatrist for the Island. Soon, Dr. Mazer turned the table and recruited them to open the Mental Health Center to be funded through donations from the community. Now known as the Island Counseling Center, that program was the foundation for what became the social service umbrella organization, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.
Today, with the active involvement of the people we serve, over 6,000 people are served each year. Reflecting the diversity of the Vineyard community, our clients are both impoverished and affluent and include families and individuals of all ages, races and ethnicities. A community-based organization, Community Services employs nearly 100 staff and scores of volunteers who provide services through six core programs:
Located across from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs, the agency delivers many of the program services at other locations including the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Emergency Room, Dukes County House of Correction, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and other schools, senior centers, employer sites, to name a few. The Family Center, Thrift Shop and the Daybreak Clubhouse are located in Vineyard Haven.
“The venture to provide human services for the island was begun in 1960 by a small group of island physicians and clergymen. Their almost daily experiences with the many islanders overwhelmed by human predicaments had led them to look for remedies, and a psychiatric service seemed a good place to begin.There was no precedent for so small, so unaffluent, so isolated a community to start its own community health clinic. The difficulties of the proposal argued loudly for themselves.how could such a service be supported in a county with the lowest median income and the highest rate of poverty in its state?…Starting with a community mental health clinic, a small traditional community went about establishing a responsive network of human services, so that its people now have a richness of resources rarely available save to larger, affluent populations.” – Milton Mazer, People and Predicaments