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Dane County goes online to tackle alcohol problems

Dane County is going at a very real problem in a virtual way. It now has a web-based tool that residents can use confidentially to determine if they drink too much.

Dane County is going at a very real problem in a virtual way. It now has a web-based tool that residents can use confidentially to determine if they drink too much.

A number of colleges already have internet surveys to gauge a person's alcohol use. Similar web assessments have been adapted by a San Diego foundation for use by counties.

Dane County is one of only two in the U.S. to use what's called the alcohol "e-checkup to go." Two years ago, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk started a coalition to combat alcohol abuse, and this is one aspect of that ongoing effort.

"We know that our state has a problem and it's in denial," says Falk. "We are one of the worst states in the nation on a whole list of barometers, from fetal alcohol syndrome to underage drinking."

Falk held a news conference at a Madison art gallery featuring creations symbolizing alcohol abuse. There were paper mache' masks of distorted faces, written personal accounts and empty liquor bottles. Falk says the title of the exhibit - "Sober Journeys" -- takes on poignancy during the holidays, when people often travel a lot and sometimes drink too much.

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Falk says it's a really important reminder of the 'Sober Journey' she hopes everyone takes to and from their loved ones and work during the holiday season.

"But during the holiday season, the problems our state and our country experience from alcohol are just magnified," she says.

Falk says one example is the jail population. On any given day, half the inmates are there on alcohol-related offenses.

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