ROCK COUNTY, Wis. – A cabinet in Jenny Hallett’s house bears the weight of a tragic memory: her daughter Brittany Rose’s favorite shot glass. A baby picture. Chapstick. Slippers Jenny sent Brittany as she celebrated Halloween within the walls of a treatment center.
The stuffed animals from her bed, where Jenny found her daughter dead on November 5, 2014 – she got drunk to death.
Brittany Rose was 26 when she died, 13 credits away from earning her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. All her life, including high school and most of college, she had been a freshman. The transcripts next to her body on the bed told the story of an addiction that no longer had any mercy for her: the D’s and the F’s.
“That night I dedicated the rest of my life to trying to keep other people from going through what she went through,” Hallett recalled looking at the picture of her daughter she was holding on her arms. knees. “It keeps me connected to her. I truly believe she was with me, guiding me through it all.
Her daughter’s death spurred Jenny into advocacy and eventually led her to get involved with the State Council on Substance Abuse (SCAODA). Over the past year, she has attended most of the meetings of an ad hoc committee that this week released 61 recommendations for Wisconsin to consider tackling the problem of excessive alcohol consumption. These recommendations include raising the price of alcohol, decreasing the density of bars in the state, and cracking down on outlets selling to children.
“I’m telling you, the best way to get into recovery is to stop addiction before it happens,” Hallett said. “It’s an agonizing brain disease to watch.”
Alcohol-related deaths rise during pandemic in continuing trend
The report comes on the heels of other research conducted during the pandemic and found a sharp increase in alcohol-related deaths in Wisconsin. A Wisconsin Policy Forum Report earlier this year, alcohol-related deaths rose about 25% in 2020, the biggest increase in two decades. More than 1,000 Wisconsinans died that year from alcohol – a figure that does not include deaths where alcohol may have been a factor, such as car crashes, falls or suicides .
“The early 2021 numbers don’t show that binge drinking has come down to pre-pandemic numbers,” said Maureen Busalacchi of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project, who chaired the ad hoc committee that released this report. week. “We hope we’re not stuck here, that we can knock him down; but it will act on several levels.
But the pandemic trend only exacerbates a much longer trend in Wisconsin, where the WPF report found alcohol-related deaths nearly tripled between 1999 and 2020, a much faster rate than its national counterpart. – and most pronounced in the 45-64 age group.
“Wisconsin is just out of the norm, and it’s costing us a lot of money to be out of the norm,” Busalacchi said. “It’s costing us lives and health… but it’s also costing us to have a society that drinks to excess. The result is that you find alcohol implicated in motor vehicle accidents, violence, assaults, suicides.
Recs: more expensive alcohol, fewer bars, surveillance of licenses
SCAODA’s report includes policy recommendations for local and state governments, agencies, community organizations, health care, and the alcohol industry, the most important of which include:
- Increase in the price of alcohol
- Reduced density of liquor outlets
- Compliance checks to ensure outlets are not selling to children
- Measures to help communities identify where excessive drinking occurs most frequently
- Screenings and brief interventions
Local governments – cities, tribes, municipalities – bear much of the responsibility for regulating alcohol consumption in Wisconsin, as they are the distributors of alcohol licenses and often decide the appropriate amount of alcohol. for their communities. The report urges municipalities to map liquor outlets and work with law enforcement and community leaders to consider moratoria on new licenses in areas where clusters are growing.
“For years, city leaders acted on the now-disproved belief that increasing the number of places that sold or served alcohol would benefit the community,” the report said. “Over the past decade, it has become clear that clusters and areas with an overconcentration of alcohol outlets increase the likelihood of alcohol-related disorder and crime, even when all licensees comply the law.”
The report also recommended that the state government cease any further increases in the number of Class B liquor licenses that municipalities can approve, as well as encourage law enforcement to track “location” data. last drink (POLD)”. Determining where in the community people are last served can help municipalities work with licensed homeowners on training to avoid over-serving.
In addition, the report encourages local governments to:
- Stop the sale of alcohol at gas stations
- Ban alcohol advertising on transit vehicles and properties
- Ban drink specials based on consumption
- Designate alcohol-free parks
- Suppress parties/gatherings in areas of college campuses
- Make code of ethics training mandatory for anyone who makes government decisions about alcohol
Additionally, recommendations for state government include:
- Raise alcohol tax
- Fund and train compliance checks on underage drinking
- Repeal a state law that allows children to drink or purchase alcohol if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian
- Regulate alcohol delivery
- Implement a public awareness campaign to educate people about the link between alcohol and cancer
By the Numbers: Drinking Culture in Wisconsin
According to the National County Health Rankings, every county in Wisconsin ranks well above the national average for heavy drinking.
While the trend has declined over the past decade, the number of children between the ages of 12 and 18 who drink alcohol is still higher than the national average (29.8 of 12- to 18-year-olds in Wisconsin, compared to 29.2% in the United States)
The gap between Wisconsin and the national average widens further for adults: 21.9% of Wisconsin adults report having consumed alcohol in the past month, compared to 16.1% nationally. This level of excessive alcohol consumption costs Wisconsin $3.9 billion a year, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. When using a federal definition, the report finds that nearly a quarter of Wisconsin residents meet the definitions of binge drinking each week.
Start at the root of the problem
For the experts behind the recommendations, solving Wisconsin’s alcohol problem means reaching people like Brittany Rose long before they need intensive treatment.
“Recommendations are really focused upstream,” Busalacchi said. “The most effective method is to change the culture around our drinking and bring us back to a more normal level.”
“It’s so glorified in our society,” Hallett said. “People just believe it’s a choice to quit, as everyone who got addicted believed until they realized it’s not true.”
Brittany’s addiction began in college, her mother said, in a way that seemed completely normal at the time. Her family and friends didn’t realize how bad the situation was until her mother saw her crying in her bedroom every night.
“I think she knew she would eventually die,” Jenny said.
“Everyone knows someone (who struggles with alcohol abuse), even if they don’t know they know them. She knew how to hide it very well. I mean, most of his friends had no idea.
Alcohol abuse iis defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Excessive alcohol consumption or 4-5 drinks on one occasion
- Excessive alcohol consumption or 8-15 drinks per week (1-2 per day)
- Drinking during pregnancy
- Underage alcohol consumption
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