A women’s sober living home, dubbed Lotus Place, has opened in Eagle River and received its first resident over the weekend.

Lotus Place, a first-of-its-kind concept for Vilas County, will have the capacity to house four women. Each resident will have their own room, according to Jay Wentworth, administrator at Empowered Affiliates and lead on the sober home project.

The two-story home off Pine Street features four bedrooms, each fitted with a bed, dresser, clothing rack and fan; a full kitchen, two full bathrooms, laundry area, a dining room, two living rooms, an enclosed front porch, an enclosed back porch and a deck.

The home, while built many decades ago, was completely renovated in preparation of its opening weekend, said Wentworth.

“In all, it cost approximately $70,000 to renovate and add-on,” according to Wentworth. “It was completely funded by generous donations from a private donor.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, sober-living homes vary place to place but tend to share core characteristics, including an alcohol and drug-free living environment and no formal treatment services. However, residents are either mandated or strongly encouraged to participate.

Other characteristics include required compliance with house rules such as maintaining abstinence, paying rent and other fees, participating in house chores and attending house meetings.

Resident responsibility for financing rent and other costs and an invitation for residents to stay in the house as long as they wish provided they comply with house rules are also common characteristics.

“Lotus Place is a house that encompasses all the attributes of long-term recovery by helping people make changes in their lives and those around them,” program literature reads.

A committee of like-minded professionals oversee Lotus Place, Wentworth explained.

“We ask our locals to join our local recovery community by showing support for this cause and for struggling women in our area of the North Woods,” said Wentworth.

The five senior members include: Wentworth and his wife, Mary, both with Empowered Affiliates; Michele Sarkauskas, substance abuse counselor at Koinonia Residential Treatment Center; Heather Gehrig, program director of Vilas County’s Readiness for Recovery jail program; and Richard McCoy, spiritual mentor at Koinonia.

Empowered Affiliates, located in Eagle River, is a recovery-community resource organization. Koinonia center, located in Rhinelander, is a residential treatment center that treats both substance abuse and mental health conditions.

Vilas County Jail’s recovery program, started in 2018 with the help of state grants, provides treatment and help to those coming in the jail with alcohol and other substance use problems.



Residents

According to program literature, all prospective residents are required to fill out an application. That is vetted by the home’s overseeing committee followed by an interview.

After a resident is approved and accepted into the home, both the resident and a committee member sign an agreement that outlines one another’s responsibilities.

“The biggest requirement we have is that prospective residents need to have completed some kind of recovery program prior to living here,” said Wentworth. “A sober living home is meant to be an extension of recovery, not separate from it.”

Residents are responsible for paying monthly rent while living at Lotus Place.

Treatment participation will not be mandatory to live there, said Wentworth, but it will be encouraged.

“Free counseling was pledged by an area provider,” said Wentworth. “Each woman will be able to attend free counseling twice a month.”

In addition to treatment and housing, different social work-type services will be available and provided to residents, by Wentworth and his wife, in an effort to better connect residents to resources.



Open house

Approximately 45 people attended an open house Sept. 17 for the new sober home, said Wentworth.

Those in attendance included committee members, local county jail program members, other alcohol and drug abuse treatment program members and community members in recovery.

The event was held for interested persons to receive education on what a sober home is and for attendees to share ideas on how to better help the local recovery community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for adult binge drinking, which is defined as four or more drinks for a woman or five or more drinks for a man on a single occasion.

Alcohol-induced deaths rose nearly 25% in Wisconsin in 2020, the biggest one-year increase in at least two decades, according to the CDC.

CDC data also showed that 1,077 Wisconsinites died in 2020 due to alcohol-induced causes, up from 865 in 2019.

In the year 2020, the rate of alcohol-attributable deaths was 83.6 per 100,000 residents in Vilas County. The county ranks number four in the state for alcohol-attributable deaths, Wisconsin Department of Health officials added.

For more information, call (952) 261-9347.