Health & Environment

Zebra mussels are becoming a problem in the Red River.

This spring, for whatever reason, they just went ‘boom,’” State Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand told the interim Water Topics committee. He says it appears the zebra mussels came from Minnesota’s Pelican Lake, through the Otter Tail River. He says the invasive species has been found all the way into Canada.

Steinwand says Game and Fish had to adopt an emergency rule to help prevent the spread of the mussels to other bodies of water.

Corps: 2015 'nearly normal' year in the Missouri Basin

Oct 29, 2015

The army Corps of Engineers says 2015 was about as close to normal a year in the Missouri River basin – at least in terms of runoff.

But how that runoff happened was anything but normal.

"It was very dry in the early months of the year," said the Corps' Jody Farhat. "We had low plains and mountain snowpack. But then we had good rains that built up the storage in the reservoirs, and it ended up to be an average year, with good service to all authorized purposes."

Health Department pushing flu vaccine

Oct 2, 2015
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The state Health Department is again urging people to get their flu vaccines.

The Department says plenty of vaccine will be available.

"The last flu season was especially bad," said Health Department epidemiologist Jill Baber. "It had the highest number of reported cases on record -- 6,443 cases. We identified 275 hospitalizations and 54 deaths."

Baber says last season’s vaccine didn’t quite match the strains of flu that were circulating – but for people who got it, the vaccination helped keep the seriousness in-check.

A mixed bag.

That's how North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring describes the fall harvest.

"There's some good stuff out there," said Goehring. "Some storms have taken their toll on some crops. But the quality in a lot of the small grains is pretty good."

"We've had some tremendous yields in places," said Goehring. "And there are some places that have just been average."

Goehring says once row crops start coming in, he thinks that could be a little different.

North Dakota agriculture and conservation groups have reached an agreement concerning who will employ farm bill biologists.

Those biologists will work with farmers on voluntary conservation programs.

Farm groups raised some concerns – because the Natural Resources Conservation Service had not only employed biologists from Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever to handle those programs – they were housed at NRCS offices. Now, the agreement means the North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts will house the farm bill biologists.

An assistant joint surgeon with the National Guard bureau in the Pentagon says she wants to encourage state and local partnerships with the National Guard – to help meet medical and behavioral health needs of military members and veterans.

Rear Admiral Joan Hunter says the effort is called the Guard’s Psychological Health Program. She says the National Guard itself doesn’t offer behavioral health treatment – but can partner with local groups to make that treatment available. However, she says the bureaucracy is so big, it is intimidating.

10 West Nile cases reported in ND

Sep 4, 2015

North Dakota is reporting 10 human cases of West Nile Virus so far this season.

That’s up by two from last week.

The Health Department’s Michelle Feist says the latest cases were reported in Burleigh and Dickey Counties. She says so far this has been a low year for West Nile. And Feist says this isn’t a time to let your guard down – because even though there are fewer mosquitoes, they’re still out there.

The state Health Department is investigating three e-coli cases in eastern North Dakota.

Health Department epidemiologist Michelle Feist says all three people are under 18 – and all attended the Red River Valley Fair in West Fargo. Feist says it appears they had contact with potentially infected animals.

“Even though there may be an animal that is healthy, they can shed e-coli in their stools," said Feist. "So there can be a risk in attending certain events where there are animals present.”

An interim Legislative committee will continue a study of behavioral health services in North Dakota.

In the previous interim, a consultant issued a report about how North Dakota handles services for  mental illness and substance abuse. The Schulte report was the basis for some bills passed in the 2015 Legislature – but advocates say there’s more work to do.

"You don't change an infrastructure like behavioral health services in two years," said Rep. Kathy Hogan (D-Fargo), who will chair the interim committee. "This is a very long-term challenge."

An official with the state Department of Human Services says one of the big issues the state is facing in behavioral health is tearing down the silos between mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment.

Pamela Sagness is the director of the department’s behavioral health division. She says an advisory group is looking at ways to integrate treatment.