Penikese Reopens

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WOODS HOLE – Penikese is back helping teenage boys with substance abuse issues on the small isolated island off the coast of Woods Hole.

The Penikese Island School used to work with referred by the state that were dealing with the pressing issues of their time.

In those days, the boys were skipping school, stealing cars and dealing drugs and they were sent to the state for juvenile detention programs, Penikese Board Member Ted Doyle said.

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Some of those boys could then be referred to the Penikese program. But in recent years, some boys sent by the state were ill-suited to life on an island.

“We were getting more and more disturbed kids, fire starters, sex offenders, violent kids, kids you can’t have on an island,” he said.

Then state funding dried up and the school went into hiatus for three years.

Doyle said, “The board of Penikese decided to refocus the school on the issues of today to keep the mission consistent to keep the school healthy and vibrant going forward.”

The board sought a partner to work with in reopening the school.

“It was very clear to us that we needed to enhance our focus on substance abuse,” he said.

The board decided to partner with Becket Family of Services, a like-minded organization.

Of the new mission, he said, “It’s an extension of the mission Penikese has always had.”

“It’s a place where kids can learn from a behavioral standpoint how to deal with their abusing behaviors,” he said.

That behavioral work, he explained, is combined with clinical work to help the teens deal with emotional issues that might be underlying.

Doyle said the program, which can last from 60 to 120 days, is not a medical detox program.

“It’s a day-to-day therapeutic environment with advanced degree professional practitioners. They also treat underlying causes that are manifested in the drug or alcohol abuse,” he said.

“For a lot of people there are underlying issues why they abuse substances, whatever they might be. And they can be anxiety. They can be depression. They can be other issues. So Penikese has always helped boys with those co-occurring issues,” he said.

He said the program is unique.

“There is nothing in Massachusetts that combines a wilderness aspect with a clinical and school environment,”