LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—The Changing the Culture of Risky Drinking Behavior Coalition has named Ed Kondracki, former La Crosse Police Chief, as their new chair.
The coalition said they're not anti-drinking, rather about providing a safe drinking environment.
America's Health Rankings study found Wisconsin has the highest rate of binge drinking in the country; and Catherine, Kolkmeier, La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium Director said La Crosse County has one of the highest rates in the state.
"A lot relates to the history of the state, and industry that got its population started in the first place," Kolkmeier said.
"We tend to think 'when I was in college people drank or when I was in high school I tried beer'. Well this situation has grown to epidemic proportions in the last 20 years," Kondracki said.
An epidemic that Kondracki has been working to stop since his time as Police Chief.
"He has always been encouraging for his officers to be involved and that has been invaluable to us so it's wonderful to have someone with so much experience coming to help make more connections in the community," Kolkmeier said.
He'll use what he learned as chief, in his new role, spearheading the binge drinking problem.
"In order to be successful with this effort it's not a police problem," Kondracki said. "It's a community problem."
Kondracki wants to work with young people on the problem, not the traditional top down effort.
"We need to talk to young people and find out what is the prevailing attitude towards binge drinking and if it's a negative attitude or a risky attitude then we need to develop a component to let kids know what they're up against," Kondracki said.
He said they're up against 1,600 deaths and 4,000 injuries a year related to alcohol.
"It's all so easy to think that we'll never make risky drinking go away," Kondracki said. "And that is probably true, but if we can reduce the frequency, if we can reduce the harm, if we can improve the handling of the situation these are all successes."
He knows changing the culture of risky drinking isn't something that's going to happen over night, but with some work and some time he says we can do it.
If anyone has ideas on how to create a safe drinking environment contact the coalition at 608-785-5148 or click here to see their Web site.
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