Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Executive Falk Announces Recommendations of Alcohol Initiative

September 24, 2008
Joshua Wescott, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
County Executive

Pilot Project for Middle School Students, Dollars for More Drunk Driving Enforcement to be Included in County Budget Proposal Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today her 2009 budget proposal will include funding for a brand new pilot project intended to provide early intervention to middle school students to help prevent them from abusing alcohol in future years. Falk also announced her budget will fund additional drunk driving enforcement by the Dane County Sheriff’s Department on Friday and Saturday nights. Falk will include five initiatives in her budget intended to address increasing problems with alcohol abuse in Dane County. They come following seven months of comprehensive research evaluating potential strategies to counter the many harms of alcohol abuse in Dane County. “The painful effects of over-consumption are being felt by people of all ages, costing taxpayers millions, and jeopardizing public safety,” Falk said. “Through very thorough study we’ve learned about new techniques to help confront the crisis of alcohol abuse. There is hope we can make a difference.” Since February, a team appointed by Falk to evaluate the scope of the problem of alcohol abuse and recommend ways to reduce its many harms, interviewed dozens of experts and reviewed more than 200 science-based research articles. That research found that kids are abusing alcohol at a younger age, including in middle school. The team also found strong evidence that intervening with kids that young and helping them get back on track makes them four times less likely to have greater troubles later in life. A 2005 survey of Dane County youth found nearly one in three 7th and 8th graders had drank alcohol in the past year. Falk’s budget will include funding for first-of-its-kind work in middle schools to identify students and parents in need of help with alcohol problems. Her budget will also make sure middle school students and parents determined to be in need of treatment will be able to receive it. The brand new middle school initiative will be tried on a pilot basis in two yet to be determined Dane County middle schools, one of which will be in the city of Madison and one outside. Falk’s budget will fund an additional 1000 hours of enhanced drunk driving patrols on Friday and Saturday nights across the county. Dane County Sheriff’s deputies respond to nearly 800 alcohol- related crashes each year, and more than 40% of all the fatal crashes in the county are alcohol- related. Deputies cite and arrest more than 3,000 motorists for drunk driving each year. Falk’s budget proposal will also expand the very successful Pathfinders program, created by Falk in 2004 to reduce the number of repeat alcohol offenders who make up a large percentage of the inmates in the county jail. Running the jail costs county taxpayers nearly $60-million each year “Pathfinders is proof that aggressive intervention and treatment works. 80% of those who complete Pathfinders don’t re-offend. Every person we keep from re-offending saves county taxpayers jailing at a cost of $29,200 per person, per year,” Falk said. Another budget proposal stemming from Falk’s alcohol initiative will train county staff and non-profit agencies that do work for the county on what’s known as “brief motivational interviewing.” The technique has proven beneficial in getting help to those with alcohol addictions more quickly. “Brief motivational interviewing is a personalized approach where those with alcohol problems get the kind of one-on-one time and attention they need,” Falk said. “This new approach motivates a person to recognize he or she is in trouble and needs help. These interviews built trust, set goals, and help overcome barriers created by their addictions, re-connecting them with family or work.” Also in the 2009 county budget, Falk is proposing the creation of additional treatment slots for people at risk of being homeless because of alcohol problems. This about $250,000 in new county dollars are the first of three phrases of initiatives Falk will introduce to address problems with alcohol abuse. In October, Falk will announce a number of ways to change the cultural acceptance of alcohol overconsumption. These efforts include creation of a community-based coalition (funded in the 2009 budget) to help change this destructive part of our culture - - another one of the recommendations gleaned from the past seven months of research. In addition, later this fall, Falk will announce a package of legislative proposals she will work to get state lawmakers to adopt in their new session starting the first of the year. “There’s no magic bullet or single answer to resolving the crisis we face because of alcohol overconsumption,” Falk said. “Only through working together as neighbors, communities, and local and state policymakers, can we achieve the kind of change needed.” # # #