CHIPPEWA FALLS — A survey shows 82 percent of Chippewa County residents believe substance abuse is “a major or minor problem” in the county.
Mental health, high-risk alcohol consumption and obesity also ranked as high concerns.
About 30 people met at the Heyde Center for the Arts on Monday to review results of the Chippewa County Community Health Survey. There were 1,225 completed surveys. They also saw data that compares Chippewa County demographics with state and nationwide statistics.
“This is just a quick snapshot of what we’ve collected over the past couple of months,” said Sarah Dillivan-Pospisil, Community Health Assessment Project manager in the Eau Claire City-County Health Department.
The data presented Monday was for Chippewa County residents only. This survey is done every three years, with the last one using data collected in 2014. Future meetings in Eau Claire County will deal with results for that county.
Substance abuse was the fourth-biggest concern in 2014, but jumped to No. 1 in 2017.
Substance abuse is a “major problem,” according to 51 percent of participants and a “minor problem,” said 31 percent of participants.
However, there are just 103 drug arrests per 100,000 people in Chippewa County, compared with 439 per 100,000 in the state.
Opioid-related hospitalizations were 1.7 per 1,000 people, compared with 1.5 nationally, but those numbers were collected before the recent spike in meth and other opioid cases, Dillivan-Pospisil said.
Mental health problems are high in Chippewa County, with about 10 suicides reported a year, or a rate of 17 per 100,000 people, higher than the state average of 14 per 100,000 and the national average of 13 per 100,000. Chippewa County has 133 hospitalizations for self-inflicted wounds per 100,000 people, higher than the state average of 96 per 100,000.
Alcohol use is considered a major problem by 31 percent of the survey participants, with another 46 percent saying it was a minor problem. About 24 percent of Chippewa County adults self-report they engage in “excessive drinking,” while the national average is 18 percent.
“Many people thought it was a problem because of accepted attitude or behavior. Others thought it was because it is easily available,” Dillivan-Pospisil said.
About 47 percent of driving deaths in Chippewa County were because of alcohol involvement; nationally, that number is 30 percent, and it is 37 percent statewide.
Hospitalizations are also much higher here — 852 per 100,000 people, compared with 830 per 100,000 statewide and 599 per 100,000 nationwide. That is defined by people suffering an injury from accidents, falls, car crashes, abuse or assault. Drug-related hospitalizations are 307 per 100,000 people in Chippewa County, compared with 260 per 100,000 statewide.
Larry Winter, director of the Chippewa County Human Services Department, wasn’t surprised by the numbers.
“The data seems to indicate consistently with the issue the Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health are dealing with on a daily basis,” Winter said.
Winter said it is important to remember the impact that meth is having on the region. He said the county spent $1.1 million in 2016 on child protective services, and that jumped to $1.7 million last year. Roughly 75 percent of those out-of-home placements are directly related to meth, Winter said. Substance abuse and mental health issues are intertwined, he added.
Children in Chippewa County are healthier than the national average, Dillivan-Pospisil said. About 12 percent of children ages 2 to 5 in the county are considered overweight or obese, with the national average at 15 percent.
A positive number shown Monday is Chippewa County mothers are more likely to breast-feed their children; about 51 percent in the county exclusively breastfed for three months, but statewide that number is just 28 percent. Three years ago the county was at 30 percent, she said.
Another positive indicator is that 77 percent of children in the county are receiving recommended vaccinations, above the state average of 71 percent. Also, just 6 percent of live births are considered low birth weight, lower than the national average of 8 percent.
Young women also are less likely to become pregnant in Chippewa County; about 21 percent of females ages 15-19 gave birth, compared with 32 percent of women nationally. That number is up from 19½ percent in the 2014 survey.
Sexually transmitted diseases also are lower in Chippewa County; 270 per 100,000 people have tested positive for chlamydia, compared with 403 per 100,000 in Wisconsin.
Chippewa County is also a safer area — there are just 121 violent crimes per 100,000 people here, compared with 380 per 100,000 nationally.
Just 9 percent of the survey participants said “injury and violence” was a major problem, with 27 percent calling it a moderate problem.
Tobacco use is 17 percent in the county and statewide. However, roughly 18 percent of mothers in the county reported smoking during their pregnancy, compared with 13 percent statewide. Tobacco sales to minors was just 4.8 percent in Chippewa County, compared with 9.8 percent nationally.
Future community conversation dates, all running 6:30 to 8 p.m.:
• Monday at Augusta Senior Center.
• Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Cornell High School.
• Thursday, Feb. 22, at Eau Claire L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire Room.