By Joe Bachman
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — It may come as no surprise that Wisconsin is the heaviest drinking state in the country, according to a 2015 study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, however, there is one local coalition that looks to reduce rampant alcohol abuse in central Wisconsin.
The AOD Prevention Partnership is a local coalition of Healthy People Wood County. Their mission is to “create safe and healthy communities for youth and adults by preventing and reducing harmful substance use”. This coalition aims to prevent not just underage drinking, but unhealthy adult alcohol consumption that leads to some staggering statistics on drinking in the area.
“The AOD Prevention Partnership wants to ensure that liquor licensed establishments in Wood County have the tools and resources they need to appropriately sell and serve alcohol,” said Ashley Normington, Health Promotion and Communication Specialist for the Wood Co. Health Department. “Many resources are readily available, but if there is more we can do to support establishments, we want to make sure we are being proactive in doing so.”
According to statistics by the Wisconsin Department of Health, in 2013, 39 percent of adults ages 18-24 reported to have taken part in binge drinking. Other studies show that anywhere from 12-24 percent of Wisconsinites have engaged in heavy binge-drinking in the previous 30 days.
While initiatives exist to help law enforcement provide legal liquor licenses for businesses, the major focus is on getting information out on how to provide resources to prevent underage drinking, and heavy binge-drinking — both issues that have a life-altering and economic impact on the community.
“The Alcohol Workgroup aims to provide information and tools to become more successful in preventing underage drinking and decrease how much adults are being over served,” said Normington. “These are two areas that can cause devastating problems in our community.”
According to a study in 2013 by University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, the annual economic impact of excessive alcohol use per Wood County resident was $1,007.91. In fact, binge drinking, which is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks for men, and four for women, have been shown to be responsible for 76 percent of such an economic consequence.
Another factor in this program is reducing the number of those who partake in underage drinking.
“Retail access is just one piece of the larger picture when it comes to underage drinking. We also want to provide education and awareness to youth and families about the reasons the drinking age is 21.”
According to a study published by the Journal of Substance Abuse, those who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four-times more likely to develop some kind of alcohol dependence. This grows exponentially when numbers also show that this same group is 2.5 times likely to become future alcohol abusers.
“A substance use disorder is something that you live with the rest of your life, so we don’t want to see kids in their teens or even pre-teens making poor decisions that will affect them for rest of their life.”
For more information on the AOD Prevention Partnership, please call 715-421-8923.