Healthy workforce

Barbara Lawton, 43rd Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin

Barbara Lawton, 43rd Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin

A strong workforce—a ready pool of well-trained and educated employees healthy in mind, body and spirit—gives Wisconsin its competitive edge in a global economy.

While our workforce is among the most robust in the nation, data show women here suffer depression at rates higher than average, and peg our alcoholism rates among the highest in the nation. And since clinical depression often goes hand-in-hand with substance-use disorders, Wisconsin residents have a higher-than-average incidence of depression, and suicide rates here are higher than in any of our neighboring states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—17 percent higher than in Minnesota and 27 percent higher than in Illinois, at 11.64 per 100,000, from 2000-2004.

A new report from the National Institutes of Health asserts that providing a minimal level of enhanced care for employees’ depression would result in a cumulative savings to employers. The data show that even though the intervention would initially increase use of mental health services, it would ultimately save employers money by reducing absenteeism and employee turnover costs.

As employers, you are uniquely positioned to improve the productivity of your workforce, ultimately your own bottom line and the economic outlook for our state. As major purchasers of health care coverage, you are de facto health policymakers. You drive quality and accountability performance with the decisions you make as collective consumers. And your influence bears the weight of responsibility for the health and wellbeing of families, the workplace and our state economy.

I invite you to bring together your experience and expertise, and the full weight of your clout as employers, to drive down the incidence of depression and alcoholism in Wisconsin. Your actions can chart a course for a healthier and more productive workforce, a better bottom line for your company—and a more prosperous outlook for all of Wisconsin.

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