Report: Excessive drinking costs Wisconsin billions

CREATED Mar 12, 2013

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MILWAUKEE -- A study released Tuesday highlight’s Wisconsin’s problems with excessive drinking.

The Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School released a first-of-its-kind report, "The Burden of Excessive Alcohol Use in Wisconsin."

Excessive drinking cost the state about $6.8 billion in 2011. $69 million—about one percent of the figure—was collected as a tax on alcohol.

Many families affected by drinking took note of another startling figure: 1,529 deaths caused by too much alcohol.

Shyla Brown of Milwaukee lost her brother, Tommy Ballman, when a drunk driver struck Ballman’s truck in 2009.

Her family is still grieving the young man’s loss.

"Some of us, like my Sister, Sam, refuses to go down this road. She has to drive around the block to get home," Brown explained.

Stories like Shyla’s highlight the emotion. Now, researchers are breaking down the costs.

The UW study found excessive drinking leaves a huge impact on law enforcement, incarceration, healthcare, and taxpayers. That comes out to about $1,200 for every man, woman, and child in Wisconsin.

"This is an important first step, to get people's attention in a constructive way, what's going on here," explained Dr. Steve Hargarten of the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Awareness groups like IMPACT in West Allis, are working on campaigns to curb the drinking culture, hoping the next generation will have a better model to follow.

"The culture of drinking in Wisconsin and Milwaukee is just out of control," explained IMPACT’s Vickie Boneck.

For now, families are pulling for changes in the state’s laws so that nobody else has to live through the pain of losing a loved one.

"I wouldn't want anyone to have to feel like that. Even if I didn't know them or didn't like them, I wouldn't wish that on anyone,” Brown said.

A number of bills are being discussed by lawmakers in Madison that would crack down on people taking their fun too far.

For a breakdown of statistics by county, click here.