On Island


There is a misconception that Martha's Vineyard is a wealthy enclave—while the reality is quite the opposite for the tight-knit community of 17,000 year round residents that experience an influx of more than 100,000 visitors onto the 96 square mile island every summer.

With the cyclical swells of day trippers, weekly renters, summer residents and seasonal workers, daily life on Martha’s Vineyard offers unique social, economic and emotional challenges that linger throughout the summer and the off-season.  The Island has also long been known to have rates of alcoholism and depression roughly twice those of the rest of the state. Over decades of being a summer party place, an atmosphere of indulgent alcohol and drug use has become destructively pervasive for seasonal and permanent residents alike.

With the motivation to save lives, support families and reduce the damage to community for residents and visitors alike, the Martha's Vineyard Substance Use Disorder coalition is undertaking an Island wide behavior change effort in the form of a public health campaign.

This group is embarking on a grassroots movement to encourage a community-led response to build a culture that seeks to reduce substance misuse and de-stigmatize addiction, as well as prevent or delay first use among island youth. We also recognize the imperative to give a voice to those directly affected, providing access to available support resources, and inspiring others to join.

To help achieve this ambitious goal, the coalition has enlisted The Public Good Projects (PGP), a nonprofit public health monitoring and
communication organization that designs and implements large scale behavior change programs for the public good. The objective of the coalition's partnership with PGP is to educate and begin to mobilize the community of Martha’s Vineyard in order to decrease the use of alcohol and drugs by changing social norms on the Island.

PGP has extensive experience with community culture change projects and has run number of successful public health campaigns on tobacco, opioids, binge drinking, sugary drinks, and nutrition.


PGP’s grassroots approach includes four distinct phases (research, strategy, activation, and evaluation) where they evaluate evidence and best practices across the public and private sectors, and deliver interventions that fit the specific needs of the community.  PGP relies on the collective impact approach, an intentional way of working together and sharing information for the purpose of solving a complex problem.

Phase I of the work includes analysis, influence identity and engagement, and initial content production; including creation of a documentary, a program website, and a branded campaign. PGP’s efforts in Phase I will lay the groundwork and help make the need for a community-led response to substance misuse clear and immediate by:

  • Giving a platform to community voices, an identity to the grassroots movement, and ways to take action
  • Decreasing use of alcohol and other drugs (opioids, nicotine, cannabis, etc.) on the Island.
  • Decreasing stigma of addiction treatment and improving social acceptance of drinking responsibly and abstaining from harmful drugs.


Click HERE for Project Timeline

Formative Research Begins - Complete

PGP completes the first phase of Formative Research, conducting several focus groups and one on one interviews to gain an understanding of the scope of the issue on Island. Interviews are a mix of in‐depth and group format with local subject matter experts, local community leaders, and community members who are both at‐risk of substance misuse and who have been personally impacted by substance use. Interviews explore topics such as community social norms regarding substance use, local resources for both acquiring substances as well as treatment and recovery, community identity, and media habits. 

Evaluation Plan - Complete

PGP analyzes information gathered from interviews and focus groups, using the themes and insights revealed to develop an evaluation plan in the form of a community-wide survey. The survey will build upon previous research regarding community substance use, but focus more directly on community social norms, perceptions of risk, awareness of resources, and receptivity to community‐led solutions. 

The PGP creative team works with committee on vision and outline for a one‐hour length professional documentary to be shot in the community. The documentary will be an articulation of the insights collected from the Formative Research phase.

Documentary Filming Begins - Complete

PGP creative film team visits Island to begin filming professional documentary. Interviews with community members, including many community member interviewed during Formative Research, will accompany on‐location original photography (video and still, including drone footage), as well as original motion graphics/animation. The documentary will be designed to give the context of substance misuse in the community, including its history, its impact on individuals and the island, and the need for community‐led solutions.

Each of these points will be expressed by community members themselves. No actors or stock photography will be used in production. The documentary will be designed so that it is educational and informative, as well as inspirational. Audience members will learn about the overall situation with substance use on the island, the opportunities to improve this situation, and ways they and their community can immediately take action. The film will direct to a program website, where additional local information and resources will be available.

Community-led Survey - Complete

With support from PGP, the SUD coalition launches an Island-wide community-led survey. The survey is built upon previous research regarding community substance use, but focus more directly on community social norms, perceptions of risk, awareness of resources, and receptivity to community‐led solutions. The online survey will occur pre-documentary and campaign implementation to establish a baseline of knowledge, attitudes and beliefs related to substance use among individuals across the Island. The survey will be programmed through Qualtrics, a research software used by academic institutions and organizations to program and implement surveys. Aside from email addresses which will be immediately removed following distribution of the gift cards (incentive for taking survey), no personally identifiable information will be collected, and all data will be kept on password-protected computers.

Survey Data Collection and Analysis; Branded Campaign Begins - Complete 

A program website build-out and branded campaign work begins. Based on the data collected during Formative Research and the production of the film, PGP will create a brand identity for a community‐led substance misuse social norm campaign. A full, professionally produced website explaining substance use on the Island, giving context to community social norms, directing to local resources, highlighting the survey and interview data, and showcasing the documentary. Additionally, community members will be provided the locations of yard signs and/or bumper stickers of the branded campaign. Community members will presented with ways to get further involved, such as donating funds, volunteering to distribute signs, share their personal experiences, and more.

Film Premiere - Complete

The film will be placed on the program website, available for streaming or download, at no charge. Educational screening guides will be produced to accompany the film. These toolkits will include information on substance use and local resources. One toolkit will be made for the school district, and one for individuals holding private screenings. Additional toolkits for different stakeholders may be produced depending on need and available resources.

Emergent Philanthropy and Behavior Change Campaign - Pending

Following the film’s release and adoption of the branded community norm campaign, PGP and its partners will regroup with community stakeholders and perform a SWOT analysis of the program. This analysis will solicit widespread feedback on next steps for the program collected through community forums, surveys, and interviews. Feedback and results from the SWOT analysis will be reflected in a proposal for a subsequent phase of work. This analysis will solicit widespread feedback on next steps for the program collected through community forums, surveys, and interviews.


Thanks to funding from The Peter and Elizabeth Tower Foundation, in-kind funding from PGP, individual gifts from Island residents, and fiscal sponsorship from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the first phase of work has been completed. Those funds have been invested in the creation of the On Island film, a needs assessment in the form of focus groups and an Island-wide survey, a branded campaign, a program website, and the resourcing of a part time staff person.

Raising the remaining funds to complete subsequent phases of work (Health Behavior Change Campaign) and ensure sustainability of efforts will include support from a network of partners including foundations, local community institutions, individual committed donors, and community wide institutional support.


On Island' explores substance use and recovery
MV Times | 2.11.21

Documentary Film Takes a Personal Look at Substance Use Disorder
Vineyard Gazette | 2.8.21

On Island - Chip Coblyn
MVYRadio, Vineyard Current | 2.7.21

On Island - Chip Coblyn
MVYRadio, Person of the Week | 2.4.21

MV SUD Coalition - On Island with Michele Jones
MVYRadio, Vineyard Current 1.31.21

On Island - Brianna Pantalone
MVYRadio, Person of the Week | 1.21.21

MV SUD Coalition - On Island with Dr. Charlie Silberstein
MVYRadio | 1.10.21

Survey Taps Attitudes About Substance Abuse
Vineyard Gazette | 12.26.21

Pandemic Brings Added Pressures for Islanders With Addiction
Vineyard Gazette | 12.10.20

Recovery community hit hard by pandemic
MV Times | September 23, 2020

We moderated our use of alcohol and drugs

MV Times | January 2, 2020

SUD Public Health Campaign Committee
MVY Radio, The Vineyard Current | December 15, 2019

Substance use disorder campaign set to launch in November 

MV Times | October 31, 2019

Public Health Campaign Takes Aim at Culture of Alcohol, Drugs
Vineyard Gazette | October 24, 2019

On My Mind: A public health campaign for the Vineyard
MV Times | October 17, 2019



To learn more or get involved, email info@mvsud.org