Drinking and driving. Drunk Drinking illustration. / www.jupiterimages.com
A role for individuals and families
Alcohol abuse is a societal and cultural problem. But it begins with individuals and families and their use of alcohol. Changing the culture requires change from individuals, especially parents, who should:
• Seek a medical assessment about the risk their current drinking habits carry and project those risks into the future.
• Keep alcohol away from minors. Parents have an obvious duty to protect their children, even if that means locking up the alcohol supply. But all adults share in the responsibility.
• Join with others to strengthen existing coalitions working to alleviate abuse.
• Support the work being done by school systems.
• Support local law enforcement efforts to control crime tied to alcohol abuse especially OWI and domestic abuse.
• Support officials who will work to control abuse. On the state level that means those who understand the need for stricter OWI laws and those open minded about how alcohol tax dollars are raised. On the local level that means those who will use their licensing and enforcement authority intelligently.
• Understand that alleviating abuse may mean spending money, but that allowing the status quo will only inflict deeper and more costly damage.
• Work in their businesses, social and civic organizations to make sure that alcohol is used responsibly in those settings.
— From “Alcohol Abuse in Brown County Changing Our Community Culture of Acceptance”
Nearly 18 months ago, individuals from across Brown County joined together to establish the Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force. The team is a result of the 2010-2011 Brown County and De Pere Health Departments’ Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).
In response to the Healthiest Wisconsin 2020 initiative, the CHIP team brought together a group of community stakeholders to review health data and prioritize the areas of greatest opportunity for improvement.
Unhealthy alcohol and drug use was identified as one of three top key priorities. The others are oral health and adequate, appropriate, and safe food and nutrition. These mirror visions for the community found in the Brown County 20/20 report.
With the key priorities identified, the CHIP group approached area health systems to see if they would be willing to facilitate a community team to begin tackling the issues. Bellin Health agreed to take the lead on alcohol and drug use, and the Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force was formed.
The exciting part of the work is the diverse representation of key stakeholders in the community. Members of the team include representation from:
Bellin Health, Bellin Psychiatric Center, Bellin Medical Group, Prevea Behavioral Health, Aurora Health Center, health departments from Brown County and De Pere, Brown County Treatment Center, Brown County Sheriff’s Department, De Pere Police Department, Wisconsin State Patrol, United Way, N.E.W. Community Clinic, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, Brown County Human Services, Libertas Treatment Center, Aging and Disability Resource Center of Brown County, Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and St. Norbert College.
Several members of the Bay Area Community Council are also members of this task force. The meetings are well-attended and the team is highly engaged in this community-wide initiative.
As part of its work, the team accessed data from the BACC study “Alcohol Abuse in Brown County: Changing our Community Culture of Acceptance” as well as state data and information from law enforcement agencies. These sources became a platform for the group to launch.
From there the review team created a vision: The Alcohol and Other Drug Task Force will positively impact the culture surrounding unhealthy alcohol use in Brown County and De Pere through a community-wide partnership among individuals, families, and organizations.
Once the vision was set, the team created three goals:
• By 2014, 70 percent of all primary care providers in Brown County will incorporate an alcohol, depression, and substance-abuse screening tool for patients over 18 years of age.
• By 2015, the incidence of binge drinking in accordance with county health rankings will decrease from 27 to 25 percent.
• Zero deaths from alcohol-induced traffic fatalities by 2020.
The belief of the team is that with strong collaborative efforts by various stakeholders within our community we will be able to influence the culture surrounding alcohol and other drug abuse. Partnering the local health systems with other community resources has proven to be positive and the momentum is beginning to build.
With foundational work done by the BACC, this team will be able to focus their efforts on improving the health and safety of the population in our region.
Laura Hieb is the chief nursing officer at Bellin Health and leads the community Alcohol & Other Drug Task Force. Hieb has been a nurse for 23 years and CNO at Bellin Health since 2006.