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State policymakers learn how La Crosse addresses pressing health issues

State policymakers hear how La Crosse addresses pressing health issues

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Local experts are sharing how collaboration is playing a vital role in solving some of the area's most pressing health issues. During Monday's panel at Viterbo University, the experts described how they're addressing everything from risky drinking to the opioid epidemic in our community. 

This event is part of the "Local Learning Series" through the UW-School of Medicine and Public Health. The aim of the event is to have organizations share the work they're pursuing while giving lawmakers an idea of how communities are addressing certain issues.

The series organizer invited a few organizations to explain how they're learning from others and sharing that knowledge. 

"Hopefully we find some common threads in some unexpected commonalities among groups that are doing work in different areas," said Sam Austin, director for the Evidence-Based Health Policy Project. 

One of the main focuses presented by the experts was the use of local coalitions. 

"There's a lot of ways we connect with coalitions and with task forces," said Catherine Kolkmeier, executive director of the La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium.  

Kolkmeier said the consortium frequently builds these groups as a way to bring together lots of partners. 

"So maybe we can put them in touch with larger efforts that are happening out in the community. Maybe we can get something on their radar that wasn't there before," Kolkmeier said.  

The Illicit Drug Task Force is operating in a similar way. 

"Each one of these yellow dots represented where a needle was found on the North and South side of La Crosse," said Al Bliss, a health educator with the La Crosse County Health Department. Bliss was referencing a map where people had reported needles in the communities between 2014 and 2016. 

They identified the problem and were able to bring in the mayor, fire chief and other task force members to set up two needle drop boxes. 

"People have been using them. It's not the answer, and there are still needles out there, but it's getting better," Bliss said.  

Austin hopes that those in the audience will use some of the ideas and connections presented during the meeting to better the community and region.

"Hopefully the policymakers who are here are learning something they might not have known before they can take back with them, or take with them to Madison," Austin said. 

Some of the legislators at the event included state representatives Jill Billings and Steve Doyle. State Sen. Jennifer Shilling also attended the panel. 


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