Health & Environment

ND Legislature

An interim legislative committee has begun its study of health insurance for state employees.

The Health Care Reform Review Committee will be looking at the state's current plan -- a hybrid between fully-funded and self -funded -- a full-funded plan, or a self-insurance proposal.

That panel was assigned the study, after the 2017 Legislature debated whether the state should go to a self-funding option. Supporters believe it could be a way to control costs.

Interim Legislative committee talks 'Obamacare'

Aug 4, 2017
ND Legislature

An interim Legislative committee has begun its work on creating a new state plan to meet the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

But there’s uncertainty. Congress tried but failed to “repeal and replace” the ACA, and so far hasn’t made any changes to the original act.

"Uncertainty creates problems for the health insurance market," said Rep. George Keiser (R-Bismarck), the chairman of the interim Health Care Reform Review Committee. "It creates uncertainty for consumers. And it certainly is creating a problem for the states."

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."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The state Health Department says it has received 97 letters of intent from people interested in growing or dispensing medical marijuana.

The department had asked for letters of intent, just to gauge the interest.

In about a month or so, his division will start taking formal applications. Those applications have to be accompanied by a $5000 non-refundable application fee. That was passed by the 2017 legislature.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Work on the design for the proposed Red River Valley Water Supply project continues.

And soon the question will be – how to pay for the one billion dollar project.

As proposed, it would bring Missouri River water to the Red River Valley in times of drought. Easements have to be obtained, pipes and intakes have to be built, and partnerships with counties and cities along the route are being sought.

After the planning process is complete, the project’s directors will have to come back and present its financing proposals to state lawmakers.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Backers of a plan to bring Missouri River water to the Red River Valley in times of drought say they may be able to take the water from the existing McClusky Canal, instead of a proposed intake near Washburn.

It’s a billion dollar project. But the project's backers say they will be able to save some money using the Canal option.

"You go with McClusky, you save $171 million," Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney told the Legislature's interim Water Topics Committee. "That's why we want to do that."

Prepping for a new state cabinet agency

Jul 11, 2017
State Health Dept.

The State Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health is preparing to become its own separate agency.

The 2017 Legislature created the framework for a Department of Environmental Quality.

But before the Agency can be established, there's work to do.

"We need to give a submittal to the (federal) EPA," said Division director Dave Glatt. "We have to show EPA the organization is not going to change."

After that, Glatt said the Department will start getting name changes in uts administrative rules.

Army Corps of Engineers

The Army Corps of Engineers is proposing an update to the water control plan for Lake Audubon.

The Corps’ concern is the Snake Creek Embankment – on US Highway 83 between Lake Audubon and Lake Sakakawea.

Potential problems with the embankment emerged after the drought in the early 2000s.

"During that time, we saw a record level of difference between the water surfaces of Lake Sakakawea and Lake Audubon," said Corps project manager Matt Nelson. He said the water pressure from Lake Audubon on the embankment was much more than the dam was designed for.

Hog farm dispute before ND Supreme Court

Jun 23, 2017

A landowner group believes the state Health Department did not have the authority to grant a proposed hog farm near Buffalo an animal feeding operations permit.

Rolling Green Family Farms was granted an "animal feeding operation permit." Concerned Citizens of Buffalo argues Rolling Green needs a different – and more strict – permit. The group also said the Health Department should have re-opened a public comment period after Rolling Green amended the application.

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.'"

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