In Wood County, excessive alcohol use costs the community $7.3 million each year, according to a recent report.
"The Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin" is the first report to offer a comprehensive look at how excessive drinking burdens the state financially. Statewide, excessive use cost Wisconsin $6.8 billion each year.
"The costs of alcohol overuse in our county are simply astounding," said Danielle Luther, a Marshfield Clinic prevention specialist. "We've known that alcohol overuse is a big problem, and we've seen the effects on our health and safety. Now we have a clear picture of the costs we bear as a community. We must use this report as a call to action for real change."
The $6.8 billion we pay for alcohol misuse in Wisconsin eclipses the state's $6.2 billion yearly K-12 grade funding through the Department of Public Instruction. Excessive alcohol consumption costs nearly $1,200 a year per person in Wisconsin, or almost $4,800 for a family of four.
In Wood County, the costs of alcohol use are driven by the 19 percent binge-drinking rate. The county's binge-drinking rate is lower than the state average of 23 percent, but higher than the 16 percent national average.
More than 40 percent of the costs of excessive alcohol use are shouldered by taxpayers, at a price of $2.9 billion a year, the report said.
Every year, 1,500 Wisconsin residents die from preventable alcohol-related causes. The report reminds people that drunken driving is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the health and safety risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol use also leads to health problems, including unplanned pregnancies, falls, drownings and assaults.
"We have a daunting problem in Wood County, and the costs of excessive alcohol use are taking a toll on our businesses and taxpayers," Luther said. "Fortunately, we know what kind of policies would make a difference at the state and local level. We hope to use this report as a starting point to bring people together. We want to to rein in Wisconsin's alcohol culture and excessive drinking; our safety and health depend on it."