our story

a new brand


Healthfirst is a non-profit community health provider in central Wisconsin.  Incorporated in 1973, Healthfirst set forward to develop a quality facility that offered confidential reproductive health and WIC services in Marathon County.  Since 1973, Healthfirst has expanded its geographical footprint and now offers WIC services in three counties and health services in nine counties.

We are taking appointments at our clinics in nine Wisconsin counties



The purpose of Healthfirst is to improve the reproductive and nutritional health within our communities.


Healthfirst is dedicated to providing quality, confidential reproductive health care, education and nutrition counseling that is affordable and accessible through direct care and strategic partnerships.


Healthfirst fulfills its purpose and mission through:

  • Providing confidential services;
  • Treating all with respect and dignity;
  • Empowering through education;
  • Maintaining honesty and integrity;
  • Being kind, caring & empathetic; and
  • Committing to innovative, high quality, evidence-based services.



Jessica Scharfenberg

Chief Executive Officer

After graduating from Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, Jessica began her career as a registered nurse in the emergency room of a critical access hospital in central South Dakota.  This is where her passion for public health began. 

Jessica transitioned into public health while working for the South Dakota Department of Health as a Public Health Regional Manager, before moving back home to Wisconsin.  She obtained her master’s in Public Health from Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, with an emphasis in policy and administration. 

Jessica brings a variety of hands-on, public health experience to her leadership at Healthfirst and believes prevention is the best medicine.  “When we focus on the health of our community, together as a community we reap great success.”

In her free time, Jessica enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with her husband and two sons.  From hunting to fishing and hiking, she is always on the go with her boys.


Jerry Lyon

Chief Operating Officer

Jerry is an energetic and proactive leader with extensive non-profit management experience.  Through his previous work with Special Olympics and Big Brothers Big Sisters, his leadership has been on the forefront of strategic planning, program growth, implementation of new programming, special events, communications, and staff and volunteer management, on a local, statewide, and national level.  Jerry received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.  He is also a graduate of the Leadership Excellence program through the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce and the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point at Wausau’s Non-Profit Management Institute.

Jerry and his wife, Molly, live in Merrill with their children, Wyatt and Jacey.  In his free time, Jerry enjoys his role as Chief Transportation Officer for his children in their many ventures, coaching, playing golf, and he is an avid muskie fisherman.


April Waraksa

Service Line Manager
Reproductive Health

April is a Wausau native and has been working in Healthcare for 20 years. She started her healthcare career as a Pharmacy Technician in Wausau before moving to California where she attended Bryman College and became a certified and licensed Pharmacy Technician. April moved back to Wisconsin and began her career at Healthfirst as the Lead Clinical Assistant in 2010. After being with the organization for 7 years, April transitioned to her current role, Service Line Manager – Reproductive Health. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Health Administration through Capella University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. April is passionate about providing high quality reproductive health services in the communities Healthfirst serves. When she is not at work, April enjoys travelling and spending time with family and friends.


Suzanne Polacek

Service Line Manager

Suzanne graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay with a BS in Human Biology and a Nutritional Science emphasis.  Upon completion of her dietetic internship at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, she became a Registered Dietitian in 2011.  After graduation, Suzanne moved back to her hometown in central Wisconsin and worked in both clinical and long term care settings before finding her place in public health nutrition within the WIC program at Healthfirst Network.  She became a Certified Lactation Specialist in 2018 after joining the Healthfirst Network team.  Suzanne is dedicated to providing quality nutrition education and breastfeeding support to the Healthfirst Network community. 

In her spare time, Suzanne enjoys camping with her husband and two young children, being active outdoors, baking, and spending time with family and friends.



Justine Thicke

Public Relations & Education Specialist

Justine graduated from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a BS in Community Health Education.  In her last semester she completed an internship with Chicago Public Schools working with their STI/HIV Prevention Specialist executing CPS Sexual Health Education policy.  She then obtained her status as a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) in 2012.  Since completing college Justine has focused her work in reproductive health through direct clinical care and by providing training, education and outreach. 

Justine and her husband, Tyler, moved back to the area when she rejoined the Healthfirst team as a Public Relations & Education Specialist.  Outside of work Justine enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, daughter and dog, watching baseball and hanging out with family and friends.