Health e-News
April 2014
Alcohol Awareness in the Workplace
Do I Have a Problem With Alcohol?
Alcohol Awareness Campaign
Emotions Lead to Lifestyle Choices
What's Happening at Affinity?
Allergy Alert: Is Your Medicine Working For You or Against You?
Humor Is Infectious
Breakfast With the Experts
Quick Links

This month we're talking about a serious issue in the workplace: alcohol abuse. Did you know? Wisconsin ranks highest among the 50 states for binge drinking. Unhealthy alcohol usage leads to lost productivity, safety violations, and deteriorating employee health. But you CAN make a positive impact toward changing this trend.


April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and Affinity Occupational Health offers many services designed to help employees and their families understand the difference between responsible drinking and binge drinking. From on-site awareness campaigns to drug and alcohol testing and one-on-one EAP counseling for employees in need, we offer a full spectrum of tools for fighting the ill effects of alcohol abuse.

Please share this valuable information with your employees. Their version of today's editon is available at:  


To your good health,   

Linda Hale-Graves

Director, Wellness and Employer Solutions

Affinity Health System

Alcohol Awareness in the Workplace
By Julie Peterson, controlled substance/compliance specialist

Nearly 75 percent of all adult illicit drug users are employed, as are most binge and heavy alcohol users. Employers have several well-defined means at their disposal for intervening with problem drinking. Those methods serve not only the interests of the employer but also those of the employees and their dependents. Furthermore, the potential for a preventive impact is worldwide.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, each year in Wisconsin, alcohol is responsible for
* 1,624 deaths (Wisconsin resident death certificate data and FARS, 2008).
* 4,319 motor vehicle injuries (Wisconsin Traffic Crash Facts, 2008).
* 50,119 hospitalizations (Wisconsin hospital inpatient discharge database, 2008).
* 94,029 arrests (Crime and Arrests in Wisconsin, 2008).
* About 480,000 people suffering with dependence or abuse (NSDUH, 2007-2008).
* $74 million in public funds spent on hospitalization and treatment (Human Services Reporting System, 2008).
The impact of alcohol use has a profound effect in the workplace. There is a loss of productivity based on withdrawal symptoms and hangovers. Attendance issues increase with two times as many late calls and three times as many sick calls. There is decreased attention and concentration with individuals preoccupied with obtaining and/or using at work. Substance abuse by a family member, friend or co-worker causes psychological or stress related effects on another person's work performance.
Wisconsin's rates of adult alcohol use remained higher than national averages in 2010 for all categories of consumption, including current use, binge drinking and heavy drinking. As in previous years, Wisconsin's adult binge drinking rate was highest in the nation.
In calendar year 2013 alone, Affinity Occupational Health documented 2,047 workplace alcohol tests. Of those, 1,094 were conducted in conjunction with a workplace accident or unsafe practice and resulted in four positive alcohol test results. Reasonable suspicion testing was conducted on 29 individuals and resulted in seven positive alcohol tests. Random testing was conducted on 833 individuals and resulted in one positive alcohol test result.
Employers find alcohol testing beneficial to promote safety considerations, productivity at work, and an employee's own welfare. Employers are under a duty to provide a safe working environment under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This duty includes ensuring that no employee is allowed to work when impaired by the use of illegal drugs or alcohol.
United States. State of Wisconsin. Department of Health Services. The Epidemic of Chronic Disease in Wisconin. N.p., Jan. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.

Do I Have a Problem With Alcohol? 

By Patrick Hauer, MS, CSAC, SAP, CEAP
Affinity Occupational Health
Employee Assistance Program counselor


When the new diagnostic criteria came out in the DSM-5 recently, I'm reasonably sure most drinkers didn't stop drinking long enough to consider where they are at personally with our consumption of alcohol and the new standards. We should. We live in Wisconsin.


In discussions about alcohol use, most people would say "I don't have a problem" when questions of alcohol use are addressed. Their own self-assessments are not usually based on any specific criteria, and are "flexible" as to time, frequency, duration, and consequence. Generally, self observations are obtained and contrasted with similar or more intensive drinking populations, or perhaps the absence of withdrawal symptoms, which are a late stage sign. Let's face it--Wisconsin is a culture of heavy drinking. Are we comparing our own drinking to what is "normal" or "responsible drinking"? Do we want to drink responsibly? We should. The costs of not doing so are emotionally and financially staggering.


I have had folks tell me when I explain that five or more drinks is a binge, that it is really just "breakfast," or a "good start." If I ask them how much they drink I hear a range of responses from "as much as I can" to "till it's all gone." For most of us, however, we should define this before we start drinking. I have never found alcohol to help people make better decisions or improve their IQ. It is one or two carbon chains short of ether, and it anesthetizes the brain, leading to poor decision making. Have you ever arrived late to a party after the drinking has started and you haven't? How funny are people really, if you are sober and watching?


We are a country of heavy alcohol, prescription, and illicit drug use. Currently, deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses exceed those of all the illegal drug overdoses combined. In many states, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental deaths exceeding those of traffic accidental deaths. When it hits close to home, we feel it, although this is largely ignored. We are a culture of drinkers and drug users, so it just seems "normal." All of us, I suspect, have or will be touched by tragedy. Analysis by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center indicates Americans likely spent more than one trillion dollars (a number with 12 zeroes behind it**One trillion dollars would extend to the sun and back with lots of miles to spare) on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine between 2000 and 2010.


Much of this is used in combination with alcohol. That's our culture, and we have a choice to view our choices through that window, or by a rather close introspective and objective personal self-evaluation. According to the World Health Organization, 30 percent of Americans report having an alcohol use disorder at some point in their lives. And for 100 percent of us, are we 100 percent sure we are not in that 30 percent? Take time to be sure that you're not, and make some changes if you are. Take a good hard look in the mirror. This poem, given to me many years ago by "a friend of Bill" highlights this process.



When you get all you want and you struggle for self,
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn't your mother, your father or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass,
But the man whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
He's the fellow to please,
Never mind the rest.
For he's with you right to the end,
And you've passed your most difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world,
Down the highway of years,
And take pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you've cheated the man in the glass. 

Peter Dale Wimbrow, Jr. 1934


Make yourself comfortable or uncomfortable, but do take the time to look yourself in the eye regarding your drinking and have the courage to take action if needed. If you think you are drinking too much . . . you are. Even if you don't think you are drinking too much, you may be drinking too much . . . that's denial. Did you ever tell yourself you were not eating too many string beans? Why would you do that? To quiet an emotional discomfort, rather than to listen to what it is saying to you. Get some help for yourself, or to help a loved one. Help is available. I have never heard anyone complain that they got help too soon, but many do wish they had gotten help sooner--before the major loss occurs. Your EAP is a great place to start. You'll be glad you did, and so will others that still care about you. 

Alcohol Awareness Campaign
By Rachel Johnson, RD, CD, wellness account specialist
Alcohol misuse among employees can be a real challenge for employers - especially in Wisconsin where health risk assessment (HRA) indicators for behaviors such as binge drinking more than double national averages. Excessive alcohol consumption is not only a concern in regard to workplace safety, but can also negatively impact medical claims, absenteeism and productivity.
With this in mind, Affinity has developed a five-week campaign to raise awareness of alcohol misuse for employees and their families. Each week, the campaign tackles a different topic related to alcohol awareness. The focus topics include:
* Binge Drinking
* Drinking and Driving
* Underage Drinking
* Alcoholism
For more information or to schedule our Alcohol Awareness Campaign at your workplace, call Tammy or Cindy at 1-800-541-0351.

Welcome Jennifer Buffa, APNP           


We are pleased to welcome advanced nurse practitioner Jennifer Buffa to our Affinity Occupational Health team. Jennifer provides wellness education and care to injured workers seeking physical clearance for employment. She has a special interest in wellness, worker health, preventive medicine, nutrition and tobacco cessation.


Jennifer's goal is to partner with patients and help them develop realistic health goals based on their individual needs. She believes in communicating openly and always strives to develop honest working relationships.


Jennifer earned her master's degree in nursing from Marian University in Fond du Lac. Outside of the office, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking and reading.


If you would like to learn more about Jennifer or schedule an appointment, call (920) 727-8700 (Menasha) or (920) 223-7075 (Oshkosh). 

What's Happening at Affinity? 

Welcome Dr. Jackie Koski to Affinity Medical Group in Neenah
Affinity Medical Group is pleased to welcome Jackie Koski, DO, to our Family Practice team in Neenah. Dr. Koski received her doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She provides comprehensive primary care to patients of all ages.
Dr. Koski has a special interest in pediatric and adolescent health, geriatrics, osteopathic manipulation, disease prevention and patient education. Her goal is to improve health and wellness by establishing a strong relationship with patients and their families.
For more information, view her profile on our web site or call (920) 727-4200 to schedule an appointment.

Allergy Alert! Is Your Medicine Working For You or Against You?   


Allergies can take a heavy toll on productivity. During high allergen seasons, more employees call in sick and have trouble concentrating. This can lead to work injuries. In some cases, says Affinity Occupational Health expert Brian Harrison, MD, the medicines people use to treat their allergies can make them drowsy, posing additional risks to safety and productivity.


What's a worker to do? Read the box! Dr. Harrison says that when allergy sufferers use non-sedating medicines, their productivity goes back to normal. Check the warning label on over-the-counter allergy medicines. If it says "may cause drowsiness," it's the wrong choice for the job.


Some tips for allergy sufferers:

  • Talk with your doctor. Make sure he knows what you do at work and that it's crucial to treat allergies without the drowsy side-effects.
  • Many effective allergy medications do not cause drowsiness; look for an ingredient called loratadine.
  • As much as possible, try avoiding allergens. Use an air conditioner and a HEPA filter in your furnace to shut out pollens during ragweed season in late summer and fall.

Cover your bases by being honest with your employer about your allergies. If your boss knows it's allergies (rather than neglect or incompetence) that's causing a temporary dip in performance, he or she may be more likely to sympathize rather than criticize. Just be sure to get help - i.e., the right medication - so your allergies don't become a lasting factor on the job. 

Try This! Workplace Wellness Tip:

Humor Is Infectious

By Heidi Hayes, wellness account specialist


Humor is infectious--so infectious, actually, that April has been proclaimed National Humor Month. It was founded in 1976 by comedian Larry Wilde. This observance is designed to heighten public awareness on how the joy and therapeutic value of laughter can improve health, boost morale, increase communication skills and enrich the quality of life.


The sound of roaring laughter is far more contagious than any cough, sniffle or sneeze. When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness. The benefits of a pleasant and happy workplace are that happy employees are more loyal and productive. The absenteeism and tardiness rate may decrease as people look forward to going to work. The turnover rate may decrease, as employees feel content and loyal to an organization. And the cost associated with illness may also decrease as people experience the positive physiological and psychological effects of laughter. 


Laughter triggers healthy physical changes in the body. It strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use. Below are a few ideas to help employees feel less stressed at work as they work harder at laughing.


  • Ask all employees for ways in which they feel fun could be added into the workplace.
  • Place a box in the break room filled with fun small games and trinkets such as silly putty, yo-yo's, joke cards, Legos, Slinkies, madlibs, etc.
  • Have employees submit jokes for joke of the day.
  • Every Monday, send a funny joke, YouTube video or story to all employees via e-mail.
  • Create 15-minute daily laughing sessions.
  • Try laughter yoga.
  • Have comedians from a local comedy club come on site once a month for some fun comic relief.
Breakfast With the Experts 

Tips, Tricks & Strategies for Dealing with Conflict
Presented by Kadihjia Kelly, MSE, LPC, NCC

Wednesday, May 7
7:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Bridgewood Resort and Conference Center
1000 Cameron Way, Neenah

Everyone faces conflict in the workplace. Join Affinity EAP counselor Kadihjia Kelly as we outline the eight causes of conflict in the workplace and discuss various tips and strategies for constructive conflict resolution with co-workers.


To register for this free seminar, please contact Stefanie Armstrong at

Your Affinity Occupational Health Sales Team 
Holly Tomlin, manager of wellness and employer solutions for Affinity Occupational Health, enjoys building relationships with clients while finding creative solutions for their needs.  Holly's background includes 15 years of experience in the health care field, with a strong background in employee assistance programs and occupational health. As a certified massage therapist, Holly has a special interest in educating others on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including wellness and prevention initiatives. 

Tammy Davis, account manager for Affinity Occupational Health, provides corporate clients with valuable information regarding services offered through Affinity Occupational Health. She works closely with clients to determine their specific needs for health and wellness services. Tammy has a bachelor's degree in business administration from UW Oshkosh and over 20 years of experience in marketing, sales, and customer service. 


Cindy Budiac
, account manager for Affinity Occupational Health, is available to help clients determine the right services and programs for their needs. Cindy has more than 15 years of experience in clinical health care, sales and business development. As our newest account manager, Cindy looks forward to meeting you and partnering on all your occupational health needs. 

To contact Holly, Tammy or Cindy, call the Affinity Occupational Health office located in Menasha, at 1-800-541-0351, or e-mail, or