Addressing addiction in the community

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Once a year the Women's Giving Circle, through the Eau Claire Community Foundation, hosts a Fall Educational Event.

In past years the conversation has focused on Alzheimer's, food insecurity, and more.

Tuesday night community members gathered to learn more on a topic that hits home for many, addiction.

"It's been in the news and it's a topic that we need to make people more aware of and really to educate them on how to work with their loved ones. Maybe there's a loved one that has an addiction and how do you approach and how do you start, and we have the people here that can help," said Eau Claire Community Foundation Executive Director Sue Bornick.

Local experts who took part in a panel discussion say addiction doesn't discriminate, whether you struggle with drugs or alcohol.

According to Dr. Jennifer Eddy, who's co-chair of Healthy Communities High Risk Drinking Prevention Action Team, alcohol related deaths are at a 35 year high.

She says the addiction costs everyone when adding up law enforcement costs, medical costs, and more.

"We all pay for high-risk drinking. So here in Eau Claire we pay $1.6 million every year because of high-risk drinking," said Eddy.

In the Chippewa Valley, Detective Sergeant Andy Falk with the West Central Drug Task Force says methamphetamine is the biggest problem.

"It impacts a certain subset of the community very strongly and that small number of individuals that's heavily impacted by addiction and drug use. Particularly when it comes to drugs like methamphetamine and opioids, really represent a lot of the crime statistics and really drive a lot of the problems that we have as a community," said Falk.

The panelists say the best way to combat addiction is to raise awareness.

"In just about any community group you can run across folks that have been impacted by this. They have a loved one, they have a friend, they have a child of a friend. They have some connection to someone that has addiction, in one form or another," said Falk.

A growing issue many say takes an entire community to fight.