Thursday, January 29, 2015




For Immediate Release

Contact:  Ryan Sheahan

             Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition

                 (608) 242-6297


A Spike in Tobacco Sales to Minors in Columbia County Raises Many Concerns

Ongoing Enforcement and Education is Key



Portage WI – January 26, 2015 –The first line of defense in preventing tobacco use and upholding the laws preventing the sale of tobacco to those under 18 are retail employees.


A key element in supporting efforts to keep kids away from tobacco products is the Wisconsin Wins program.  Wins is an evidence based tobacco prevention program funded by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.  Wins is built on an effective mix of education and oversight to help prevent illegal retail tobacco sales to minors.  Oversight is provided by local public health staff working with youth inspectors aged 16-17 to conduct unannounced inspections at local tobacco retail establishments.


Wins inspections consist of the youth inspectors attempting to purchase a tobacco product.  If they are able to purchase a tobacco product, Tobacco Free Columbia Dane County Coalition (TFCDC) staff  inform local law enforcement where the sale occurred.  The local law enforcement may then issue a citation to the employee who sold the tobacco and the business owner. The Wins program also provides free training and educational resources that help clerks understand and comply with the law.  They also actively engage in community outreach and education to communicate the importance of preventing youth access to tobacco.


While Wisconsin Wins has delivered measurable results since its debut in 2001, there is still work to be done in Columbia County. In 2014, 137 tobacco retail establishments were inspected in Columbia County. Of those, 17 establishments sold a tobacco product to a minor, resulting in a non-compliance rate of 12.4%. In 2013, Columbia County had a sales rate closer to 7%. 


“This is the highest non-compliance rate we have seen since 2009,” said Ryan Sheahan, the Coordinator for the Tobacco Free Columbia-Dane County Coalition. “While we are pleased with the efforts - checking IDs and refusing sales to minors - taken by the majority of retailers, new data showing a notable spike in the non-compliance rate to over 12% raises many concerns.”


There are many factors that may contribute to this spike in tobacco sales to youth including lack of training and education. Many clerks do check the ID’s as required, but the variety of licenses and IDs out there can be confusing.  “Our big challenge is to help educate and train retailers and clerks since we consider them to be key partners in keeping tobacco out of the hands of youth,” Sheahan said.


Continued education and outreach will be needed in 2015 to lower the rates of sales of tobacco products to minors. The 2014 Wisconsin Youth Tobacco Survey discovered that while youth smoking rates have hit an all time low, the use of other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, little cigars and electronic cigarettes, are rising dramatically.

Free training is available at which is funded by Wisconsin’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program. State law requires that all retailers train their employees and have a certificate in the employee’s file stating that they have completed mandatory tobacco training. More details about the Wisconsin Wins program can be found at


You can also read the full report by clicking on this link and scrolling down to our Latest News section.










Friday, January 23, 2015

Think Good Health in 2015

As we begin 2015, many of us are thinking about our resolutions for the New Year.  Many of our goals for 2015 focus on improving our physical health.  Have you thought about how you could improve your mental health?  According to the World Health Organization “mental health is an integral part of health; indeed there is no health without mental health.”  Numerous studies have found that individuals with poor mental health are at an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Here are some ways to improve your mental health and well-being.

Adopting a healthy diet.  Many of us know that a healthy, balanced diet is good for our physical health, but it also helps our mental well-being.  According to the Mental Health Foundation, “your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body.”  One study suggests that eating five (5) portions of fruits and vegetables a day is good for mental well-being.  High alcohol consumption has been linked to increased risk of anxiety and depression, therefore experts recommend limiting alcohol intake to promote good mental well-being.

Regular exercise.  Studies have shown that getting regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mile to moderate depression and anxiety.  The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.  You don’t have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment.  Walking is an inexpensive, low risk and accessible form of exercise. 

Get more sleep.  Research has shown that people who get less than 5 hours of sleep at night may be at higher risk of mental illness.  The Mayo clinic recommends going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, even on weekends, as a routine can boost your body’s sleep-wake cycle, promoting a better night’s sleep.  Switch off your electronic devices such as phones, computers, and TVs.  People tend to sleep better in a cool, dark and quiet room.  Limit your use of alcohol, caffeine and sugary foods at night.  Establish a bedtime ritual such as reading a book or taking a bath.  This tells your body it is time to wind down.

Manage stress.  Stress can take a toll on our mental health.  One study performed by the University of California-Berkeley, found that stress can make the brain more susceptible to mental illness.  Several studies have shown that stress reducing strategies such as yoga and meditation can but the body into a state of rest by changing its gene response to stress.  Staying positive during difficult times may also reduce stress.  Other useful strategies for reducing stress include making lists, taking regular breaks, and having a support network to confide in. 

Get into paid or voluntary work, or take up a hobby.  Working, volunteering and hobbies help to provide us with an identity, puts structure in our life and gives us opportunities to interact with other people.  Concentrating on your work or hobby can help us forget our worries for a while and change our mood. 

Be realistic.  By setting over-ambitious goals, you’re potentially setting yourself up to fail and that can have a negative impact on your self-esteem.  Talk to friends, family and co-workers about how they can help you stick to your goals.  Keep a weekly record of your progress.  Celebrate small achievements along the way.  If you slip up, it’s not the end of the world – you can get back on track tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happy New Year!

As we make plans for our blog this year, we are hoping to bring you more articles and updates regarding local life here in Columbia County.  We will continue to try to make more connections in the community through our Department's Newsletter, published quarterly, and to make more frequent posts here in our blog.  You can also keep track of Columbia County HHS on our Facebook Page.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Getting Help Locally with the Marketplace

There is assistance locally navigating the Marketplace.  Contact one of the resource below:

The Benefit Works: Appointments only, call Sharon at 608-729-1002 or 608-515-6368


Columbus Community Hospital: Appointments from 8am – 5pm, call 920-623-2200


JSV Insurance: Appointments only, call Jeff at 608-575-3021 or Hannah at 608-575-1177


Schwartz Insurance: Appointments only, call Jackie at 888-852-4988 Ext. 8589

You can also get additional information by clicking on and going to our Health & Human Services Department page.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tips for Using the Marketplace for Insurance

Now that you have health coverage through the Marketplace, it’s time to review your plan and decide if you need to make changes for 2015.  You can choose to stay in your current plan (as long as it’s still offered) or make changes. Follow these 5 steps to stay covered through the Marketplace.

  • Every year, insurance companies can make changes to premiums, cost-sharing, or the benefits and services they provide. Review your plan’s 2015 coverage to make sure it still meets your needs and you’re getting the best plan for you.

  • Visit and log into your Marketplace account. Answer a few questions to get to your 2015 application – it will be pre-filled with your latest information from 2014. Step through each page of your application and make changes if you need to. You also can call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to review or make updates over the phone.

  •  Log into your Marketplace account and follow the “Enroll To Do List” on to compare 2015 plan costs and benefits. New and more affordable plans may be available in your area this year.

  • Choose a health plan for 2015. You can keep the same plan (as long as it’s still offered) or select a new one that better fits your needs.

  • Stay covered for 2015! Contact your plan to confirm your enrollment. Make sure to pay your premiums.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Affordable Care Act Provision for Former Foster Care Youth

Effective January 2014, Medicaid coverage for youth who were in foster care at age 18 may now receive full Medicaid benefits up to their 26th birthday.  Youth who lost Medicaid coverage due to exiting out of home care when they turned 21 in the past several years, are also covered under this provision if they are not yet age 26.  While there is no premium required for Medicaid under this provision, a nominal copayment of $1 to $3 may be required for some services.  There is no income or resource test for these youth while they are eligible under this provision.  They are not required to pay any premiums for themselves.  Regardless of income, they are now eligible for the Medicaid Standard Plan until the end of the month in which they turn 26 or they are otherwise ineligible, whichever is sooner.  Youth who move to Wisconsin from another state are also categorically eligible for Medicaid for former foster care youth providing they meet the same eligibility requirements.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It’s National Suicide Prevention Week!

By Debbie Millman

Suicide continues to be a big concern for Wisconsin.  In the Department of Health Services report, “The Burden of Suicide on Wisconsin: 2007-2011”, the average number of suicides in our state in the years covered was 724.  Some key findings from the report included:


  • The highest rate of suicide during this time period was among people between the ages of 45 and 54.
  • Teens and young adults had the highest rates of hospital visits for self-inflicted injuries.
  • Whites and American Indians had the highest rates of suicide; yet high school students of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely than their White peers to report suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens were more likely to report poor mental health, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviors than their heterosexual peers.
  • Of the suicides with known circumstances, 51 percent had a current mental health problem, 35 percent had problems with an intimate partner, 26 percent had an alcohol problem, 23 percent had physical health problems, and 21 percent had job problems.


You can access a full copy of this report here:


We all know the suicide rate in our county is a problem.  So, what can we do about it?  Here are a few ideas:


1.    Join the efforts of our local suicide prevention coalition.  You can find more information about coalition efforts here:

2.   Attend a QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention training. The next one is scheduled for 9/30 from 6-8 p.m. at the Columbia County Law Enforcement Center in Portage.  It is free and open to the public.

3.   Get familiar with the mental health resources in our county so you have good information to give someone who is struggling.  This information can also be found at:

4.   Take the time to listen to someone who is struggling.  Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide.  Suicide is more likely to occur when it is kept a secret.

5.   Talk to someone if you are struggling.  Don’t suffer in silence.  Hope is powerful and we all need it!  Talking to someone and opening up can give you hope. 


The crisis line for Columbia County is:  1-888-552-6642.  This number will connect you with a trained crisis  worker from Northwest Connections.  Northwest staff will also connect you with a county social worker who will assist you with finding the help you need after the crisis is over.