Sheboygan County Substance Abuse Remains a Problem

Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, individual abuse of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs cost our nation more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care expenditure.

Chances are you know someone who struggles with a substance abuse issue. It could be someone in your immediate or extended family, workplace or neighborhood. Mental and substance abuse disorders affect people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels. Per SubstanceAbuseandMental Health Administration (SAMHA), by the year 2020, mental and substance use disorders will surpass all physical diseases as a major cause of disability worldwide.

At a local level, Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 has identified a need to address mental health and substance abuse. Two such initiatives include Stigma Reduction and Heroin Prevention & Treatment. The Stigma subcommittee’s overall goal is to reduce the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse. The Heroin subcommittee’s focus on five aspects of substance abuse is prevention, harm reduction, treatment, law enforcement and workplace. For further information and resources, please visit healthysheboygancounty .org.

Substance abuse does not just hurt the abuser, but everyone around them, including spouses, siblings, children, parents, grandparents, coworkers, friends and the greater community. A person abusing substances, over time, will deteriorate their physical health, impair their mental functioning, affect their financial wellbeing and can destroy relationships. Oftentimes, a substance abuser and those affected tend to feel isolated and alone. There is hope, and reaching out can help!

While Wisconsin ranks number one in the nation in binge drinking, we have seen a substantial increase in opiate abuse as well. Our entire community is impacted by substance abuse in various ways such as crime, unemployment, death, divorce, child neglect and accidents. We all have an opportunity to make a difference.

Within the workplace, substance abuse could manifest in several ways: absenteeism, tardiness, poor job performance, loss of efficiency, accidents, injury, theft, increased use of health care, poor relationships with co-workers or supervisors and loss of employment due to high turnover rate. It is important for organizations to have a clear written policy along with education for employees and supervisors to maintain a safe workplace environment.

Do you know what to do if you suspect an employee is under the influence at work? If you want to learn more about the state of addiction in Wisconsin, and best practices to effectively manage employees who are under the influence, please consider joining Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 at the upcoming Wisconsin Lakeshore Safety Conference on Oct. 18. For further information on the conference go to

If you are employed and have questions about mental health and substance abuse, please contact your human resources professional to determine if your organization has an employee assistance program (EAP). Many EAP’s are a great starting point for accessing free services for a wide range of needs and concerns. Mental health and substance abuse impacts everyone. Let’s work together to raise awareness, increase understanding and develop resources for treatment and recovery.

Pamela Krueger is a Master of Social Work (MSW), an account executive with the Aurora Employee Assistance Program and is a member of Healthy Sheboygan 2020 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committees.