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

“We continue to place kids out at Share Academy,” he said. “We’re working on two right now and if both kids are placed, we’ll have eight there. We’ll have five girls and three boys out there.”

Elsner predicted during the long wait to reopen the facility that there was a definite need for it.

“I told you there would be a need and there definitely is,” he said. “We still have two juveniles (from Marinette County) in Lincoln Hills that eventually we hope stabilize and we can transition them back to Share Academy and we can move a couple kids out of Share Academy back into their homes with their families.”

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. 

“I think the program has been very successful,” Elsner said. “It’s definitely necessary. Advocates is doing great job.”

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Acting Public Health Officer Mary Inglese reported to the board that the implementation process to make Marinette County HHS a satellite location for the LifePoint Needle Exchange Program in partnership with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) is nearly complete.

“The room is almost cleared out and we’ve got it painted,” she said. “The cabinets are ready to get in there as soon as it is painted. So, hopefully by the end of August or early September, we’ll be up and running with that.”

The board was told in May that the LifePoint Program will be free to Wisconsin residents and besides the needle exchange will include monthly visits of the ARCW mobile van to do Hepatitis C and HIV testing and distribution of Narcan, a nasal spray for emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdoses.