The mayors of Bismarck, Mandan and Lincoln have launched an effort they say will lead to healthier communities.
The “Gold Star Community Task Force” will look at addiction and behavioral health issues facing the area.
"I have a cousin who is an emergency room physician, and he had been pinging me about what he's seeing, and what he thought the city's responsibilities were," said Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary, who is spearheading the effort. "I said to myself, 'We need to be more pro-active.'"
Seminary said the creation of the task force is the first in a number of steps toward a long term, effective effort.
"We want to make sure all members of the community are as healthy as possible," Seminary said.
Seminary also said the cities want to coordinate the available resources to treat these health problems.
"Some folks think you can spend your way out of these things," Seminary said. "I don't think you can. It takes all resources applied effectively."
John Vastag of Fargo chairs the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Dilworth and Horace, and also has been working with Grand Forks on these kinds of issues. His role is to be a facilitator for the task force discussions.
"The goal, obviously, is to reduce the number of deaths we have as a result of addiction," Vastag said. "We want to get to a point where we're focusing more on prevention than we are reacting to the situation. Prevention has proven to be cost-effective, while reaction is very expensive."
Vastag said having communities band together should also mean more efficiencies and less duplication when it comes to addiction and behavioral health treatment.