GREEN BAY - Health care officials hope a new study released Tuesday will send a strong message about binge drinking in our state.
The report indicates excessive use of alcohol costs Wisconsin $6.8 billion each year. That's about $1,200 per person.
The report was compiled by three health professional organizations, and it puts Wisconsin at the top of the list when it comes to binge drinking.
From court costs, to health care, to loss of productivity on the job, officials say they have a plan to try to fix the problem.
"There's alcohol everywhere you go in this state," said Paul Krupski of Health First Wisconsin.
Krupski is calling on state lawmakers to address the issue.
Health First Wisconsin supports increasing the state's alcohol tax, establishing sobriety checkpoints, and making 21 a consistent age for drinking at all bars and restaurants.
And on the local level,
"Social host ordinances, policies that local festivals can put in place to make sure alcohol is being sold properly. Alcohol density policies addressing where alcohol is sold, and when," said Krupski.
Health professionals say the cost of consumption goes well beyond the numbers. They say the culture of drinking in this state has to be addressed.
"It is a way of having us all take a look at ourselves, and say what does responsible mean, and how do we start with our youth and educate them and model the behavior that we would seek to create," said Barbara Coniff, Libertas Treatment Center director.
At The Stadium View Bar and Grille in Ashwaubenon,
"I would say definitely, people are drinking less. Without a doubt, without a doubt they are," said Jerry Watson, owner of The Stadium View Bar and Grille.
Watson says the report is nothing new. He says there are enough rules already.
"Part of it is an attack on our tavern league, and the industry that does have a lot of jobs, a lot of payroll, a whole lot of taxes," said Watson.
But health professionals say the misuse of alcohol is the real issue.
"The fact is we're not going to eradicate its use, nor do we want to. I think what we are trying to do is to move us to an area where we have responsible drinking, we're drinking in moderation," said Laura Hieb, Bellin Health chief nursing officer.
A local alcohol task force has been operating in Green Bay for about a year and a half.
Leaders say they hope to increase alcohol-related screenings during doctor's visits.
The group also wants to eliminate all alcohol-related deaths in Brown County by 2020.
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