behavioral health

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A representative of a group studying North Dakota’s behavioral health system says the state needs to invest more in prevention programs.

Dr. Bevin Croft of the Human Services Research Institute presented a number of findings and recommendations to the Legislature’s interim Human Services Committee.

"Compared to the resources being spent on treatment services, there's a relative scarcity of funds for both prevention and early intervention," Croft told the committee. "Many stakeholders saw it as a missed opportunity."

'A Day of Prevention'

Apr 12, 2018


It was called “A Day of Prevention.”

People gathered in Bismarck to talk about how to prevent substance abuse.

Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum hosted it, along with the North Dakota Department of Human Services.

"We spent $26 million in the last decade building jails in our state," Burgum said. "This year, in the budget, we will spend $100,000 for prevention. Each dollar of prevention could save as much as $64 downstream."

ND Legislature

The behavioral health division of the state Human Services Department will be undertaking an extensive needs survey – to find out what works in treating behavioral health issues, and where there are gaps.

"The discussion isn't just about what's being done,  but also what needs to be done," Department Behavioral Health Services director Pamela Sagness told the Legislature's interim Health Services Committee. "This will follow on the conversations we've been having over the last two years."

Lincoln mayor: Addiction an 'epidemic'

Jun 19, 2017

The mayor of Lincoln says drug abuse – especially opioid abuse – has become an epidemic.

"Since I've become mayor of Lincoln, which has been about a year and a half, we're pulling a lot more illegal drugs off the streets," said Gerald Wise.

Wise said he’s hoping the new “Gold Star Community Task Force” – spearheaded by the mayors of Bismarck, Mandan and Lincoln – will make a difference.  And he said he hopes the task force will dig deeper into the “why” people are using drugs and becoming addicted.

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.'"

ND Legislature

A behavioral health bill that originally called for $28 million in spending has now passed the Legislature – but at a significantly reduced spending level.

A House-Senate conference committee agreed to $350,000.

"This is a significantly smaller number than we would like to have," said Sen. Judy Lee (R-West Fargo), the chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee. "There's no doubt about that."

Lee said at least this will help start a pilot program with the schools for early childhood intervention.

Lawsuit over behavioral health?

Apr 10, 2017
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.

Republican Legislative leaders say they won’t be able to do as much as they would like in the area of behavioral health.

But they say they will do a few things.

Behavioral health advocates say there’s a growing need for community based treatment. Judges have said they have no choice but to sentence drug addicts and people with mental health issues to prison – because that’s the only treatment available.

The leaders say the money isn’t there to go full-bore into community treatment.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The director of behavioral health for the state Department of Human Services said alcoholism and drug addictions need to be treated as chronic health conditions.

Pamela Sagness said that underscores the need for community based treatment – to keep these kinds of offenders out of jail.

The interim Incarceration Issues Committee is looking at proposals to help reduce the prison population. And one way being suggested is to have community based treatment available.

Sagness told the Committee some North Dakota treatment programs need to be updated.

The chairman of a Legislative interim committee looking at the issue of behavioral health treatment says recent findings by the Council of State Governments concerning the amount of incarcerations in North Dakota will lead to a lot of discussion during the 2017 session about treatment alternatives.

The CSG report shows the number of felonies more than doubled between 2011 and 2014. And the number of drug sentences was up by 2 ½ times.