GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - Wisconsin ranks highest among all states in the nation in binge drinking. Now a new report is highlighting just how costly this overconsumption of alcohol really is.
According to a study by Health First Wisconsin, excessive alcohol consumption costs the state $6.8 billion a year, and much of that is funded by taxpayers.
"This report finds that more than 40% of the cost of alcohol over consumption are shouldered by taxpayers at a staggering $2.9 billion per year," said Paul Krupski, Policy Specialist with Health First Wisconsin.
That's for things like healthcare, lost productivity, crime and premature death.
The report found excessive drinking in Wisconsin lead to more than 1,500 deaths and 60,000 arrests in 2011.
Krupski hopes the study prompts change.
"On the state level," he explained. "we need to give law enforcement the tools that they need to succeed by allowing Wisconsin to join 38 other states in allowing sobriety checkpoints. They are an important tool in helping prevent drunk driving."
The group also wants to make 21 a consistent drinking age in Wisconsin bars and restaurants. Currently an exception allows parents to purchase booze for their children.
To raise more revenue for awareness and treatment, they're lobbying for a higher tax on alcohol.
"There are so many costs to this and we need funding to be able to get people into treatment," said Barbara Coniff, Director of Libertas Treatment Center in Green Bay. "to educate the public and to prevent the highway deaths that we read so much about."
"The fact is, we're not going to eradicate alcohol use, nor do we want to," said Laura Hieb, Chief Nursing Officer at Bellin Health. "I think what we are trying to do is to move us to an area where we have responsible drinking."
In Brown County alone, the study found alcohol use costs nearly $318 million a year. Healthcare providers have banded together to create a task force to address the issue.