MARINETTE — The former Crossroads Group Home for juveniles in the Town of Peshtigo should be ready to reopen in December with a different name and management, Health and Human Services (HHS) Director Robin Elsner told the HHS Board on Wednesday. 

The county purchased the facility on Schacht Road in June for $220,000 from the Group Home Association, which notified it earlier that it no longer wanted to operate the eight-bed facility under a contract with the county as of June 15 because of liability concerns and difficulty staffing it. The county is waiting for Advocates of Healthy Transitional Living to obtain a group home license from the state so it can operate the facility for the county with the name “Share Academy.”

“We met with Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living last Friday,” Elsner said. “They submitted the application to the state (for the group home license). Now they’ve (the state) come back and they need more information from Ad to fulfill the application. One of the things they need is if there is a three-person advisory committee.”

He said one resident each from the Peshtigo and Marinette school districts have expressed interest in serving on the advisory committee and that an at-large member is still needed.

“I’m pretty sure the rest of the application is done,” Elsner said. “I think once they get the three members identified for the advisory committee they will resubmit the application to the state. The state usually makes a decision within two weeks on whether or not to approve the license.”

He said the advisory committee needs to meet twice a year to talk about the group home operation and whether it is meeting the needs of the community and the juveniles.

He reported that the county maintenance department “is working very hard to try to paint and redo the floors” at the former Crossroads facility.

“I’ve ordered a dishwasher and that has been put in,” Elsner said. “I’m looking at furnishing other things for the home. I’m waiting until Marty (Keyport, county facilities director) is finished with the painting before I order the rest of the home contents and start moving the stuff into the home.

“I don’t believe we’re going to meet the Nov. 1 deadline. But I’m hoping that with the contract approval today (by the HHS Board) that sometime by the end of November or beginning in December we will be able to be open.”

Elsner said the facility is very beneficial to the county, including avoiding high-cost placements of juveniles elsewhere.

“We definitely have kids that would benefit from being there,” he said. “We’ve used secure detention and shelter care in Northeastern Wisconsin. 

“They would be better served at (the former) Crossroads, where they can work with local treatment staff in their communities.”

Elsner said Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living has some staff in place and will need to hire additional employees.

The nine-member HHS Board voted to recommend county board approval of a purchase of service contract with Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living that calls for a maximum of $90,000 to be paid by the county for administration of Share Academy from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 of this year.

The contract calls for the county to pay a projected rate of $184 a day per day for each juvenile in the facility. Deputy HHS Director Glenn Sartorelli and Elsner said that rate’s impact on the county tax levy could be lowered by other services provided by Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living since it is certified to provide Comprehensive Community Services.

“It’s a good alternative,” Elsner said. “It keeps them close to home. It’s definitely a need. It helps us with high-cost placements and residential placements.

“It serves a multiple purpose. We don’t have to put kids in Winnebago or shelter care.”

He said the purchase of services contract would likely be renewed for all of next year after it expires at the end 2018.

“We only pay them when they’re open and when we actually have residents in there,” Elsner explained. 

HHS Board member and County Supervisor Tom Mailand asked Elsner how many juveniles are expected to be housed at the facility?

“It’s an eight-bed home, it serves a multiple purpose,” Elsner said. “We averaged six to seven kids (in the past) and then if a kid has a mental health crisis, we divert them for short periods of time up to 20 days.”

The HHS Board delayed taking action on a proposed lease agreement with Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living.

“We’re trying to finalize the contract and we’re looking through it and making sure it has everything we need,” County Administrator John Lefebvre explained. “We need to have a lease agreement with the contract because we are the owners of the property that they are leasing from us.

“We will bring it to this committee (in November) for your information because you’re Health and Human Services and you need to know what’s going on with that building. It truly is an Infrastructure Committee item (to act on) because it’s a lease of a county building.”