Marathon Co. LIFE Report Calls for Action in Early Childhood Development

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The use, abuse and misuse of alcohol and drugs is only one of the immediate concerns plaguing Marathon County according to the recently released LIFE Report.

The report, published every two years, examines what Marathon County is doing well and what it needs to improve on in areas ranging from safety and education to environment and energy.

In addition to drug and alcohol use, un- and underemployment, unmet basic needs, obesity, healthy aging and intimate partner violence are all listed in this years report as issues to watch. But leaders in Marathon County say the solution to all these problems starts with our children.

The LIFE Report identifies a long-term goal of ensuring that every child in Marathon County gets off to a great start. That means first and foremost investing in educational programs that relate to early childhood development, such as literacy. The report also focuses on decreasing the impact of childhood trauma by ensuring services are available to children suffering from abuse, expanding mental healthcare to families and addressing the increased need in unmet basic needs.

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Doctor Dipesh Navsaria was asked to help put the report into context for the community. He says one of the best things the community can do to meet this goals is to "Support parents in being the good parents they would like to be and giving them that space and those skills. If you stick to those principals as you look at policies and programs, I think you'll see the payoff down the road."

Economists have done the math. For every dollar we invest in our kids today, they project $4.00 to $9.00 in return.

Research continues to uncover greater links between the impacts of childhood trauma and the challenges of decreased economic productivity, increased criminal behavior and continued abusive behaviors like drug and alcohol use. Investing now could mean nipping increasing issues like these in the bud.

State Representative Mandy Wright says her office is currently working on forming a bipartisan coalition in Madison to address this issue.

"There are some very good people working on this issue, making sure that we have some appropriate legislation and hopefully free up some funds so that the people who are working so hard to implement these programs and know best practices and know our families and know our communities can really be affective," Rep. Wright tells NewsChannel 7.

Although no legislation has been drafted just yet, Rep. Wright says she feels good about what's being done on the local level with the creation and work of the Early Years Coalition in Marathon County. She adds success in early childhood development also depends on parents making it an individual initiative as well.

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