EagleHerald Staff Writer
MARINETTE—Ivy Sutek, a graduate from both UW-Green Bay Marinette Campus and NWTC’s Marinette Campus, saw a need in the community. She saw that many in the community have struggled with addiction, or know someone who has. She saw there were many in the community who would support efforts to combat addiction, but few willing to spearhead an operation. So, she started Bridges to Recovery in Marinette.
“I went to NWTC in 2006 through 2008 for business, and then I worked at Bay Area Medical Center for 15 years,” Sutek said. “Then I ended up going back to school thinking I was going to be a teacher. I fell in love with psychology and started steering towards psychology and human services, so this was a journey. But all of those things folded together to bring me where I am now. None of my education was wasted.”
Sutek joined the Board of Directors for the Marinette County Group Home Association as a student representative in 2017 and remains on the board. She said this is how she became interested in becoming a teacher, since there was a juvenile group home open in Peshtigo at the time.
She was hired by Libertas Treatment Center in 2019 as a substance abuse counselor and case manager, which she does full-time.
“When we started talking about opening another facility and I was working at Libertas, it just broke my heart every time I had someone who was homeless or had just gotten out of jail, who was couch-surfing or floating and wanted to get help but didn’t have a roof over their head. That’s when this dream came to me of having something locally,” she said.
Sutek said there are plenty of resources across Wisconsin, but often those here who need them don’t have the ability to jump in a car and get to a doctor’s appointment. “They don’t have a significant other or friend that they can call and say, ‘Hey, can you drive me to Chippewa Falls for this hospitalization?’ They’ve burned those bridges; they just don’t have those resources anymore,” she said.
Sutek said former State Rep. John Nygren had visited Libertas, since he was involved with the HOPE (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) Initiative, which offers a grant that Libertas uses to get inpatient treatment to those who need it. She said he told her that Marinette businessman Mike Biehl may be willing to donate a building to the cause.
“I sat on that for a while and thought about what that might look like, and then I brought it to the board. I applied for a grant on the fly from the M&M Area Community Foundation, just for capacity building, and Paula (Gruszynski) called with that financial award, and we were blown away. It was $8,000 and we had only asked for $2,000,” she said.
She continued the work on Bridges to Recovery on a volunteer basis. “It’s not a job, it doesn’t feel like a job,” she said.
Sutek used her experience as a counselor to determine what the program would look like and what a person would really need.
“Insurance pays for a little bit, maybe 10 to 30 days in residential treatment, but then they’re back to their same home environment or friends and family that may not be so healthy, the same gaps in their resume; they’ve gotten the knowledge, but not the transitional skills that they need,” she said. “So it’s not really a residential treatment that insurance would pay for and not really sober living, since sober living has kind of a negative connotation that there’s not a lot of oversight or skills-building. We’re calling it a ‘recovery residence,’ which is a six- to nine-month program where people can live there with oversight and identify their future goals, while they have peer support and case management,” she said.
Bridges to Recovery will be available for people in both the Marinette and Menominee, and is located at 3132 Shore Drive. Sutek said the building is still being renovated, so it’s not quite ready for people to stay at just yet. However, when it is finished, a total of 34 people will be able to live there. She said an open house is planned for this coming autumn.