MARINETTE — The Share Academy group home for juveniles that opened in April in the Town of Peshtigo is off to a good start, Marinette County Health and Human Services (HHS) Department Director Robin Elsner told the HHS Board on Wednesday.

“There are five juveniles at Share Academy,” he said. “The program I believe is going well and doing what we had intended it to do.”

The county purchased the eight-bed facility last June for $220,000 from the Group Home Association, which notified it earlier that it no longer wanted to operate the group home under a contract with the county because of liability concerns and difficulty staffing it. The county agreed soon thereafter to lease the facility to Advocates for Healthy Transitional Living. It was closed for about 10 months while HHS waited for the state to issue a group home license to Advocates. 

He said HHS social workers meet with the Share Academy staff each week to talk about the juveniles in the facility.

“Things like crisis calls and their staff being able to manage juvenile behaviors have improved,” Elsner said. “I think law enforcement has had less contact than with Cross Roads. They’re pleased with that.”

Elsner said “I think Advocates is doing a good job with Share Academy.”

He said later in the meeting that the facility for boys and girls could be full when two juveniles from Marinette County are allowed to be transferred from Lincoln Hill and Copper Lake maximum-security facilities.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting:

¦ Elsner and Public Health Nurse Mary Inglese reported that the implementation process to make Marinette County HHS a satellite location for the LifePoint Needle Exchange Program in partnership with the AIDS Resource of Wisconsin (ARW) is continuing.

“We’re still trying to get staff moved around a little,” Elsner said. “That program is going to be right across the hall (from this meeting room in the basement). We are getting cabinets and other things to separate that office.”

He said “we’re moving forward with that initiative and maybe by the end of the summer it will be up and running.”

Public Health Officer Molly BonJean told the board in May that the LifePoint Program will be free to Wisconsin residents and beside the needle exchange will include monthly visits of the ARW mobile van to do Hepatitis C and HIV testing and distribution of Narcan, a nasal spray for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdoes.

¦ The board voted to authorize the public health officer to apply for and accept if awarded and administer a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services for up to 300 tick removal kits.

Inglese said last year HHS Public Health assembled the kits itself, but this year is seeking to receive them from the state.

“We can apply for up to 500 kits,” she said. “Last year we gave out 250 kits to various groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H groups, a fishing and camping sites.”

Inglese said the kit includes information about the different ticks, a safety guide, and how to remove them, along such things as tweezers, alcohol wipes, Band Aids and OFF repellent. 

“They were highly accepted last year by all of these groups,” she said. “It’s a promotion and a really educational item. Lyme disease numbers are going up in Marinette County and in Wisconsin. So we’re trying to get the word out to do tick checks and how to do them.”

¦ Elsner reminded the board the HHS Planning Committee will hold its annual public hearing at 5 p.m. June 26 in Conference Room G in the HHS Building to receive comments from county residents regarding budget planning and services to to be provided by HHS in 2020.

“I’m encouraging our staff to invited citizens that receive care to be here,” he said.

County residents unable to attend and wishing to submit comments in advance may do so by by mailing their comments prior to the hearing to: Robin Elsner, Director; Marinette County Health and Human Services, 2500 Hall Ave., Marinette, WI 54143.