Skip to Content
The Waushara S.H.I.N.E.S. program launched in May 2022. It’s a six-month transitional living environment for men seeking support in early recovery. Seven men were part of the first wave of residents to move into the home located in Wautoma.
May 25, 2023

Building Up Recovery Housing in Wisconsin

ThedaCare Constructs Solutions with Communities to Address Increasing Substance Use Disorders

Communities across Northern Wisconsin are opening new doors to individuals seeking help from substance use disorder (SUD). The move comes as drug and alcohol addiction continues to be a top public health priority in nearly every Wisconsin county.

“For the past 12 years, ThedaCare has been collaborating with its communities to find innovative solutions for the increasingly concerning substance use issues,” said Paula Morgen, Director of Community Health Improvement with ThedaCare. “Sober-living housing, also known as recovery housing, is the latest need being met in Northeast and Central Wisconsin.”

Recovery housing is an alcohol- and drug-free living space where individuals get the support they need to improve their physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being while gaining skills to sustain their recovery.

“In a sober-living home, individuals work with a recovery coach or a peer support specialist to walk with them on their journey through recovery,” explained Sharon Woodruff, a peer support coordinator and certified peer support specialist with Unity Recovery Services. “These coaches and specialists provide encouragement and prospective during difficult times.”

The nonprofit creates opportunities for individuals in, and seeking recovery, from a substance use disorder. They connect people to local resources, organizations and employers to assist them in building a solid recovery network. Studies indicate that the likelihood of maintaining long-term sobriety doubles when those in recovery reside in a sober-living home.

“In most cases, individuals that come out of a treatment facility or incarceration are forced to go back to the same toxic environment they came from, exposing them to prior habits and substances, and hindering sustainable recovery,” said Woodruff.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nationwide, the drug overdose death rates are sobering. Since 1999, more than 932,000 people have died from a drug overdose. In 2020, 75% of those deaths involved opioids.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially hard on people struggling with SUD in the U.S. and in Wisconsin.  

Waushara County Sober-Living Accommodations

The Waushara S.H.I.N.E.S. program launched in May 2022. It’s a six-month transitional living environment for men seeking support in early recovery. Seven men were part of the first wave of residents to move into the home located in Wautoma.

Anthony Verbanac, 41, lived in the home and successfully journeyed through the program. He now lives in an apartment nearby, grateful for the family-feel and support he still gets from the sobriety housing initiative. He also gives back as a practicing certified peer support specialist and recovery coach – two designations he said he worked hard to obtain during his most recent sober-living journey.   

“It’s been a learning process in recovery over the years,” Verbanac noted. “Waushara S.H.I.N.E.S. provided the type of environment I needed. They helped me find a place where I feel I belong, and I have been able to heal. I am healthy enough to make good decisions now.”

Verbanac’s substance use started in his early 20s when he was prescribed opioids to treat pain he was experiencing from a medical condition. He quickly became addicted to that drug and others over the years, going in and out of recovery programs in different parts of the country, experiencing relapses along the way.

Now he believes he has the ability and strength to keep his addiction in remission and live a full life, especially staying connected to the Waushara S.H.I.N.E.S. community. He has found a workplace where he is supported and feels understood in his recovery. Additionally, he has been able to stay connected with his church to meet his spiritual needs.

“And I’m now responsible to help others as a coach and support specialist, so that keeps me surrounded by healthy people and helping others who want to stay healthy too,” he added.

ThedaCare CHAT Teams Highlight the Need for More Recovery Housing

“We are part of conversations across our service area as part of our Community Health Action Teams (CHAT), which advocates for healthier and stronger communities,” said Tracey Ratzburg, Community Health Coordinator with ThedaCare Community Health Improvement. “Supporting people in recovery aligns with our health priority to address substance use.”

Every three years ThedaCare completes a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) in partnership with Wisconsin Public Health and many other stakeholders. This year, ThedaCare starts another three years of intentionally combatting substance use disorders.

“This process enables us to focus our community health efforts where they matter the most,” said Tammy Bending, Vice President of Critical Access Hospitals at ThedaCare Medical Centers-Berlin and Wild Rose. “More than 150 diverse community voices are heard. As a result, we’re building on our efforts from the past three years to further alleviate excessive substance use in our service areas, and that includes seeing more recovery housing come to fruition this year.”

The Greater Shawano Area Recovery Housing Initiative

Over the years, the Shawano CHAT Team recognized a need for living spaces for people in recovery. Unity Recovery Services collaborated with the Greater Shawano Area Recovery Initiative, securing funds for the first Women’s Sober-Living Program in Shawano County – a 4-bedroom, 3-bath home set to open in May 2023.

“When these services become available it can help individuals maintain employment, strengthen family relationships and opportunities for healthy socialization, which can help build a safer and stronger community,” Woodruff said.

“ThedaCare is a Population Health organization, focused on providing predictive, preventative

and holistic care that will ensure better outcomes for all,” explained Bending. “We’re proud to partner with communities to uncover the underlying causes of poor health and reduce inequalities so that people are better equipped to maintain good physical, emotional

and mental health. Sober-living housing is an example of meeting people where they are at in their journey from substance abuse to sobriety.”

For those who would like to learn more about resources available, they should contact:  

The Waushara S.H.I.N.E.S. program launched in May 2022. It’s a six-month transitional living environment for men seeking support in early recovery. Seven men were part of the first wave of residents to move into the home located in Wautoma.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.