UPDATE: Menomonie mayor sends new non-profit a cease and desist - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Menomonie mayor sends new non-profit a cease and desist order

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Menomonie (WQOW)- After residents in the middle of a Menomonie neighborhood raised concerns, the mayor says a cease and desist order has been delivered to a home.

As News 18 reported last week, a non-profit group, called Grassroots Wellness, opened a home to serve those with mental health or substance abuse issues. At the ribbon-cutting neighbors in the residential area said they were caught off guard and voiced concerns about safety. After speaking with the city's legal counsel Mayor Randy Knaack says he believes Grassroots Wellness is in violation of city zoning ordinances. At Monday night's city council meeting the mayor announced that he has sent a cease and desist order to the non-profit. It gives the group one week to respond or to dis-band.

Funding for the home was included in Governor Walker's mental health initiatives in the 2013 - 2015 biennial budget. The program is overseen by the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

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Menomonie (WQOW)- A non-profit group called Grassroots Wellness is opening a home to serve those with mental health or substance abuse issues in a residential neighborhood in Menomonie. Neighbors in the area say there were caught off guard, and voiced their concerns at Friday's ribbon cutting ceremony.

“Only a few neighbors in the neighborhood were notified, so we helped get the word out to everyone in the neighborhood,” neighbor Sharon Smith said. “Since then, there has been a lot of activity, and people who have been coming forward to address the zoning ordinances as well as the restrictive covenant.”

They expressed safety concerns for those in the community.

“The last thing I want to see is any of these neighborhood kids, who we all know and love so well to be at risk in their own home environment,” neighbor Linda Gaertner said.

Grassroots Empowerment Project Executive Director William Parke-Sutherland said there is a stigma about individuals suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems.

“Honestly, the people we want to serve here are not dangerous,” Parke-Sutherland said. “I understand people are concerned about safety, but we want to educate people about stigma, and what we want to do and who we want to serve here.”

The group did not answer all of the community's questions today, but says it is willing to work with area residents.

“It's our responsibility to educate the neighbors in the area about the service, and we are planning to come back and meet with neighbors who have expressed some concerns,” Patrick Cork with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said.

Menomonie Mayor Randy Knaack said the grassroots organization described it as a home for individuals that need care, which is allowed in any zoning area, but this type of facility does not fit the single-family zoning.

“I'm a little disappointed they didn't come to the mayor's office to tell me the uses of this home in a residential area,” Knaack said. “Maybe we can find a new location, a better location, either in Menonomie or the state for a home such as this.”

However, the organization says the residential neighborhood is perfect for those who will be using the facility.

“One of the core goals is that it is in a homelike environment, so they are naturally located in neighborhoods,” Parke-Sutherland said.

The home will offer one-to-one peer support on a twenty-four hour basis. Staff will include volunteers who are offering support based on their own recovery experiences.

Services will be free and open to Wisconsin residents who want peer support. It is a voluntary program, and potential guests interview with a team to see if their stay at the home will fit their needs. The average guest stay is between one and five days, and they are allowed visitors.

Funding for the home was included in Governor Walker's Mental Health Initiatives in the 2013-2015 biennial budget. The Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services oversees the program.

Two other homes in Madison and Appleton opened under similar circumstances this week. Mayor Knnack says he plans to seek legal guidance on Monday.
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