Jeff Angileri
Oct 8, 2008, 9:57 PM

According to the Department of Health Services, Wisconsin leads the nation in alcohol abuse and addiction.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is trying to change that, at least in Dane County. Falk's 2009 county budget proposal calls for a quarter million dollars in new funding to combat alcohol abuse.

She says her experience growing up with an alcoholic parent, is helping her champion these new reforms.

My father suffered from alcohol, and it killed him way too early at age 52, said Falk. It is a common story in Wisconsin. We just have a culture here of overuse of drinking.

The stats the Department of Health Services prove it - Wisconsin is worst in America for binge drinking, worst in alcohol use during pregnancy, worst for binge drinking among high school students, worst for chronic drinking, and worst state in America for drunk driving fatalities.

Addiction counselors aren't surprised. They say alcoholism is a medical problem, and a real disease.

It has a biological component to it, and you need more than just will power, said Ted Izydor, a counselor at Gateway Recovery. You need support, counseling, people behind to make a change.

Falk hopes to break the addiction by stopping it before it starts.

She says prevention is much cheaper than paying for repeat drunk drivers who cycle through the courts and jail.

Falk wants to spend money on programs for middle school kids, aimed at teaching them the dangers of drinking, in an effort to prevent behaviors handed down by generations.

Kids grow up emulating our moms and dads who we love, so we think its normal to drink too much, and the cycle continues to repeat over and over again, said Falk.

The earlier the initiation, the higher risk later on that they could develop an alcohol and drug dependency, said Izydor.

As the daughter of an alcoholic, Falk says she's looking to young people to embody a new culture in Wisconsin, where overconsumption is not accepted.

Help them change, to cope, and live, in a way that you're not afraid, and you can make different decisions as you grow older, Falk said.

If the county budget is passed, those middle school education programs would start in two schools, one in Madison, the other outside the city.

The plan will also fund more than 1,000 hours of police patrols on Friday and Saturday nights, to stop drunks on Dane County Roads.

The Mental Health Center of Dane County

(608) 280-2700


UW-Health Gateway Recovery

(608) 278-8200


Alcoholics Anonymous Madison

(608) 256-9682