November 18. 2013 10:30PM

'Nature' draws Cape Cod drug and alcohol treatment center for boys to Warren

Union Leader Correspondent

WARREN — A private drug and alcohol treatment center will be temporarily relocated from a remote island off Cape Cod to a facility in New Hampshire.

Beginning Dec. 1, the Penikese School, part of the New Hampshire-based Becket Family of Services, will operate out of the organization's facility at the Baker Valley Treatment Center in Warren, according to Becket CEO Jay Wolter.

The Penikese School was founded in 1973 on a small island off Massachusetts near Cuttyhunk Island. It operated until 2011, when state funding for the program became scarce. Becket Family of Services, a private, nonprofit organization, decided to revive the program to help adolescent boys with substance abuse issues in 2012.

However, licensing for the program on the island, which takes an hour to reach by boat, has taken longer than expected. Wolter said that while that process continues, it was decided to make use of the vacant building in Warren. The building was used by Mount Prospect Academy, another drug and alcohol treatment center, until October.

Perfect outdoor setting

Warren is a perfect setting for the Penikese School, Wolter said, for several reasons. It's close to the Mountain Valley Treatment Center in Haverhill, an affiliate of the Penikese School, so students can make use of the 2,000-acre campus, which has ropes courses, environmental science programs and other opportunities for learning. But the Warren campus also has one of the most important components of Becket's vision for helping youth: Nature.

"We're trying not to be a hospital," said Wolter. "We want to be a place where kids can step back and view life in a more basic way."

Getting kids outside helps them become grounded as they seek respite from their addictions and the issues that lead them to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, Wolter said.

Not looking to get big

Beginning Dec. 1, Penikese North, as it's being called, will begin accepting students. The school accommodates a maximum of 10 boys.

"We've consciously decided to have small, specialized programs, and we're not looking to get bigger," Wolter said.

The school will employ around 20 staff members, some from the local community. The plan is to stay in Warren through the winter and then move back to Penikese Island once the approvals from Massachusetts are in place. The Warren building will continue to be used for programs by the various treatment facilities in the area.