WI alcohol consumption 28% higher than national average

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Wisconsin ranks highest among all states in binge drinking and alcohol consumption here is 28% higher than the national average. Tuesday, March 12th, Health First Wisconsin and its partners unveiled findings in a report called "The Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin."

"What we learned was simply staggering. The report found that the excessive alcohol consumption in Wisconsin costs us $6.8 billion every year. That's a breathtaking number," Julia Sherman, coordinator for the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy at the University of Wisconsin Law School said.

That $6.8 billion includes motor vehicle crashes, lost productivity, the criminal justice system, premature deaths and healthcare.

"It permeates emergency departments across this state. Tens of thousands of patients each year are treated with alcohol-related illnesses," Emergency Room Dr. Steve Hargarten said.

Taxpayers foot more than 40% of the costs or about $2.9 billion a year.

The toll goes beyond money. Each year, 1,500 Wisconsin residents die from alcohol-related causes. In Milwaukee County it is about 350 annually.

"We're reminded in this report that excessive alcohol use leads to unplanned pregnancies, falls, drowning and assaults," Sherman said.

Monica Adams says her organization -- the Milwaukee County Coalition to Prevent Substance Abuse plans to focus on preventing underage drinking. One challenge is to change the permissive alcohol attitudes of adults.

"That's okay, I did that when I was young. Kids will be kids. Hosting alcohol parties have somewhat become normative response," Adams said.

They would also like to see a repeal of a provision that allows a minor to drink alcohol with their parents at bars and restaurants. They also want to see law enforcement officials use sobriety checkpoints and increases with the state's alcohol tax.

Right now, it only covers one percent of the $6.8 billion price tag from excessive alcohol use.