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Teen Substance Use on Martha’s Vineyard. Attitudes and perceptions of key professionals, experts and community leaders on the island Interview and Data collection Presented by: Emily Davie Sarah Doherty, RN Zheni Gjoka Christina Iliades , RN Genevieve Verrastro

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Teen substance use on martha s vineyard

Teen Substance Use on Martha’s Vineyard

Attitudes and perceptions of key professionals, experts and community leaders on the island

Interview and Data collection Presented by:

Emily Davie

Sarah Doherty, RN


Christina Iliades, RN

Genevieve Verrastro

From the university of Massachusetts Medical School


  • The Dukes County Health Council formed the Youth Task Force (YTF) in 2004 to address the unmet health needs of youth and families on the Island.

  • The YTF conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Survey of middle and high school students in 2007.

  • Substance abuse was identified as a problem, creating the need for further investigation of parental and community perceptions of teen substance use.

The interview
The Interview

  • Over the past two weeks, students from UMass Medical School have conducted 27 open-ended interviews of key community leaders and professionals involved with youth.

  • The interview consisted of 19 questions pertaining to existing norms, parental attitudes and behaviors.

  • Findings from these interviews are explored throughout this presentation. All interviewees’ names are kept confidential.

  • Data will be used by the YTF to aid in the future development of a parental survey.

Community comments
Community Comments

  • “Most teenagers are at risk, and there is probably a higher level of use here than in other places that I’ve lived.”

  • “Not all, and not even most kids are drinking and using drugs. They need to know this.”

  • “On the island there is abstinence and heavy drinking but nothing in between.”

  • “We hear a lot about the problem and we don’t hear enough about kids who don’t use.”

Question 5
Question 5

“Parents believe that there is alcohol and drug use, just not that their kid is involved.”

Community comments1
Community Comments

“This is a culture of permissiveness and isolation.”

“School has become the center for ethical conduct of the teens and the community.”

“There are a lot of hard working parents, a lot of empty homes.”

Community comments2
Community Comments

  • “We have a strong community of adults who do care and are really trying to pull together and find solutions.”

  • “My son got stopped a few weeks ago, and at least seven people told me about it.”

  • “There are a number of agencies doing good things [to prevent youth substance abuse] but they aren’t working together enough.”

  • “If there’s a problem with a kid, there’s always a family to go to [for help].”

Community comments3
Community Comments

“Partying and drinking and going out to bars is the norm on the island.”

“I get a sense that [parents think] drinking is ok as long as there’s no driving.”

“I’m a firm believer that we as adults must lead by example.”

Question 9
Question 9

“First and foremost the most important thing is to have good communication, and that needs to start from a very early age”

Question 10
Question 10

  • The two most common consequences mentioned were taking away privileges and grounding.

  • “Until parental attitudes change, the number of kids that use is not going to change.”

  • “There are certain parents that provide the message: just don’t get caught… do it in the household so I can keep an eye on you.”

  • “Hopefully if we help them grow up right, they’ll make the right choices.”

Question 11
Question 11

  • Places mentioned where youth get alcohol and drugs:

    • High School

    • Lagoon Pond


      Road Vineyard


    • Circuit Ave.

Question 13
Question 13

  • “Teens need to know where the line is, and that it is the same line for everyone”

  • “We have a total good old boys system that is alive and well on the island.”

  • "[in] several towns… police have started to crack down on home parties over past few years."

Question 14
Question 14

  • “Some parents are happy (if their kids get caught by law enforcement) because it takes the consequences off of them.”

  • “Parents want to be friends with their kids rather than parents, especially with their teenage children.”

  • “Many parents are concerned, and are doing the best they can."

Question 16
Question 16:

What community resources exist to support youth and families?

  • Island Community Counseling and Martha’s Vineyard Community Resources

  • School: Activities and Guidance Councilors

  • The YMCA

Question 17
Question 17

What additional supports for family and youth are needed?

  • Rehabilitative and detox services for teens on the island

  • Substance abuse specialists, especially for adolescents

  • Education and Community involvement

    • SADD

    • MADD

    • DARE for High School students

Community comments4
Community Comments

  • “The High School does a wonderful job of putting this info out. The schools in general do a wonderful job making help available for parents for training and teaching. I think we have a great DARE program.”

  • “We try to intervene right at the beginning. I think community service is huge on the island. There are a lot of therapists on the island. I think the island has a lot to offer once you’ve identified a problem. I think the hospital does an excellent job and I think that the schools are trying.”

Question 18
Question 18

What is the first step you think should be taken to address these problems?

  • Education for parents, teens, and teachers

  • Increased services for adolescents and parents

  • Role modeling of appropriate behaviors

Question 19
Question 19

What questions do you think should be asked on a parent survey when it is created?


  • Statistics Specific to Martha’s Vineyard

  • Support

  • Knowledge

  • Personal/Family History

  • Communication

  • Legal Issues

  • Consequences


  • Interviewees indicated that parents, and the community as a whole, believe that youth substance abuse is a problem on the Island.

  • Those surveyed overwhelmingly believe that messages about substances, positive and negative, come primarily from parents.

    • Parents need more education about the nature of addiction and how to address it with their kids

    • Parents need more support in their own struggles with substances

  • There is a lack of knowledge/communication about the support, education, and treatment programs/services available on the island.

Conclusions continued
Conclusions continued

  • Much of the substance access comes from the phenomenon of high school age kids mixing at jobs or socially with adults in their early 20s.

  • Many of those surveyed believe that the programs provided by the YMCA will be very helpful for the community.

  • Consensus that there is a lack of programming and support on-island for youth drug users or those in recovery (Ala-Teen, detox, etc.)

Final thought
Final Thought

“I think the island community is very protective. We come together when somebody’s ill or somebody dies or somebody needs help. This is a wonderful thing and the fact that the task force is trying to address this issue in a regional way… it’s much more impressive then if you were outside of Boston. When we do come together, that’s very important and very special.”

We would like to thank
We would like to thank:

Interviewees for their honesty and time

Youth Task Force and Island Health Council:

Tom Bennett

Cindy Mitchell

Patsy McCornak

Cindy Doyle

Olga Church

Island Counseling Center and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services


Island Health Clinic

Health Care Access Program and Sarah Kuh

Ron Rappaport

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, especially for housing:

Tim Walsh


Suzanne Cashman