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Striving for a healthy community

I'm excited about the opportunity to continue to provide you with updates on various health care-related topics. In my 2016 New Richmond News guest columns, I wrote about physician shortages in rural communities—such as ours—and talked about the importance of preventive care.

In my first article this year, I want to share some facts about drug and alcohol use, and the effect this has on our community and state. This impact is one of the reasons that Westfields Hospital & Clinic opened Programs for Change Westfields, a new adult alcohol and drug treatment program—located in our specialty clinic—that's helping people overcome addiction. The program is modeled after Programs for Change in Hudson, which has been helping people overcome addiction for more than 30 years.

The prevalence in Wisconsin Alcohol and drug use isn't just a big city problem. The issue is widespread in many areas of the U.S.—rural and urban, cities and townships. In Wisconsin, however, our adult alcohol consumption is 10 percent above the national level and our rate for adult binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks in one sitting for men or four or more drinks in one sitting for women) is the third highest across all states. This information is from a 2016 report from the Wisconsin Department of Health (WDH) and the University of Wisconsin

Population Health Institute (UWPHI). In the same report, it was noted that 67 percent of St. Croix County adults are current users of alcohol — 14 percent higher than the national average and 4 percent higher than the state average.

In 2013, the cost of excessive alcohol use in St. Croix County was $105.2 million, a $1,248 cost per-resident. This information only reinforced Westfields work around offering resources to our community.

As a health care organization, our mission is to ensure the health and well-being of the people we serve, and we're committed to changing these statistics and improving the overall health of our population.

Drug use is another huge issue in our state and county. In common with other regions, there has been a surge in the use of prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. The misuse of these substances is most prevalent among young adults. In 2013-2014, 9 percent of Wisconsin adults age 18-25 reported using pain relievers for nonmedical purposes the past year.

In 2015, 873 Wisconsin residents died as a direct consequence of illicit drug use. The most prevalent category of drug mentioned on death certificates for drug-related deaths in 2015 was "other opioids." Heroin was the second most prevalent drug mentioned.

I know firsthand the toll that drug abuse can have on a family as I lost my brother to an overdose eight years ago. Even though Wisconsin's rate of drug-related deaths is lower than the national rate, I believe one death is one too many.

Tackling the drug and alcohol problem in our community is going to take a village. Last December, Programs for Change Westfields opened to provide—on an outpatient basis—primary and after-care treatment, for people with alcohol and other substance abuse conditions. The program is offered in a group setting; however, individual sessions to clients enrolled in the treatment program are available on an as-needed basis.

Individuals enrolled receive treatment from licensed clinicians experienced in treating alcohol and substance abuse conditions.

To arrange a visit, schedule an intake assessment, or for other questions, call Westfields Specialty Clinic at 715-243-2900.

Our hope is that having a program in our community will be a bridge to people seeking help, and put them on a path to a healthier life.