The Door County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to move forward with the first phase of creating a sober living facility and with a Health and Human Services Department restructure. Both are ways the department is responding to an increasing local need for alcohol and other drug abuse services. 

There are a lot of unknowns as to whether this trend will continue, said HHS Director Joe Krebsbach, but Door County is catching up to the rest of the state and nation in regards to the severity of its drug epidemic.

Increasing needs mean more county funds are spent to send clients outside of Door County for services that are not available here, according to Krebsbach. Currently, there are five female HHS clients in long-term inpatient treatment facilities outside of the county.

A residential treatment facility costs an average of $350 per day and a psychiatric inpatient facility costs $1,700 per day, Krebsbach said.

“We are saving millions of dollars by keeping social programs in (the) county,” said District 18 Supervisor Vinni Chomeau, who represents the Town of Gibraltar and Village of Ephraim and serves on the Health and Human Services Board. 

After the resolutions presented by the HHS board moved through various committees, the County Board approved both of them with a vote of 19 in favor, two absent. 

Phase one of sober living

The first resolution allows $15,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to be retained for HHS to contract with CORE Treatment Services, Inc., a sober living and consulting organization based in Manitowoc.

When asked for clarification of what exactly the money will be paying for, Krebsbach explained Phase One of CORE’s proposal will perform a study and provide structure for what is needed to open and manage a sober living facility specifically in Door County. CORE’s evaluation will also answer what the costs will be to provide this program locally.

Once Phase One is completed, the county can decide if it will implement the structure and operate the facility itself or continue to contract with CORE to manage the program, Krebsbach said. 

HHS looked at three other agencies, he said, and CORE was the only one that had a successful model that has worked in three other counties already. 

District 10 Supervisor Alexis Heim Peter, who represents part of the City of Sturgeon Bay, asked Krebsbach for the status of pharmaceutical settlement money to be paid to the county. Local governments around the country, including Door County, are receiving money from opioid lawsuit settlements. 

“We are just starting to see it come in,” Krebsbach answered, and one of the projects it will be used for is sober living. 

Departmental restructure

The second measure passed by the board, Resolution 2024-13, will usher in a new organizational structure for HHS. The department will be redesigning three job descriptions and expanding the role of behavioral health manager, Krebsbach said. 

The restructure itself will not require an additional tax levy in 2024 to support it, according to a memo from Krebsbach to the Administrative and Finance committees, despite a $23,677 cost increase shown in the fiscal impact statement. That number reflects a shift from an individual insurance plan to a family one, he explained, and would be necessary whether the restructure took place or not.

In addition, because one of the jobs being redesigned is that of Court Services Coordinator, a part of AODA and the Treatment Court program, $58,000 of a Treatment Alternatives and Diversion grant can be requested to cover some of the position’s costs, Krebsbach said.

County Administrator Ken Pabich commended Krebsbach and the department for their efforts at meeting emergent AODA needs.

“We need to be nimble,” he said, “Joe (Krebsbach) is working with a changing landscape, and we need to make sure our resources are in the best spot moving forward.”