Lawsuit over behavioral health?

Apr 10, 2017

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo).
Credit ND Legislature

A Fargo legislator believes the state is going backwards in behavioral health -- and that may lead to a lawsuit.

Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) said House Bill 1040, which came out of interim studies on the issue, originally had $28 million in it. But that’s now down to $400,000. And he said that has essentially destroyed new initiatives.

Mathern said in the state department of Human Services, over 100 positions have been cut, many dealing with behavioral health.

"That includes 21 positions in human service centers and 9 at the State Hospiatl in Jamestown," Mathern said.

"The basic. foundational service delivery system has been whittled back," mathern said. "We are beyond crisis now."

Some advocates for behavioral health have talked about the state facing a potential lawsuit, similar to the Association for Retarded Citizens’ lawsuit in the 1980s. And the Schulte report, issued in 2013, warned of the same thing.

"Right now, it appears the only option is a lawsuit," Mathern said. "We have studied this. We have attempted to increase the service delivery dollars. That has failed."

Democrats tried to add money back to that House Bill through a floor amendment – but failed.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson) said he can’t disagree with what the Democrats tried to accomplish – but he said there’s still time left in the session to find some money for behavioral health programs.