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State Hospital Superintendent says state commitment law works well -- but education may be needed

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

An interim Legislative committee is studying North Dakota’s mental health commitment statute – and procedures – to see if it should be changed.

But the superintendent of the State Hospital in Jamestown said it’s a good law.

Dr. Rosalie Etherington said it has been consistently recognized as good law. But she said she hopes the study will look at how that law is being carried out as designed.

"Do we need to change?" Etherington said in an interview. "Do we need to educate judges and providers about what the statute actually says?"

Etherington said another question is -- are individuals who really need the treatment getting it -- or are they going without.

"That's the important piece of the study," Etherington said.

Etherington said education will help make sure people aren’t going without care.  She said she has heard personal testimony from some individuals, whose loved ones went too long without care, or got care eventually, but it wasn't timely.

"There may be individuals out there that should, in fact,  be treated, either on an outpatient basis, or might need commitment that aren't getting it, or aren't getting it timely," Etherington said.

The study is in front of the Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee.

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