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Survey shows 74 percent of North Dakotans believe addiction is a health condition

Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum at 'Recovery Reinvented' 2021
Dave Thompson, Prairie Public
Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Burgum at 'Recovery Reinvented' 2021

A survey of North Dakotans shows a marked improvement in how people view addiction.

The results from the North Dakota Addressing Addiction survey were presented at the “Recovery Reinvented” event at the Bismarck Events Center. It shows 74 percent of survey respondents believe addiction is a health condition. A previous survey – in 2018 – showed 63 percent of North Dakotans recognize addiction is a disease.

"I'm so grateful and thankful for the work everyone's doing, because it's working," First Lady Kathryn Burgum told reporters. "And we are a leader across the nation now, because nobody else is measuring this. And nobody else knows where they are in stigma."

Gove. Doug Burgum said when stigma goes down, the support for addressing the disease of addiction goes up.

Burgum also said he’d like to see more preventive-type treatment.

"We can't do enough services on the back end," Burgum said. "We can't build enough treatment centers. We can't have enough law enforcement. We've got to move dollars upstream."

Burgum said when that's done, lives are saved, healthier communities are built, and it is a more efficient use of tax dollars.

COVID Silver Lining?

Burgum also said it may be premature to call some new ideas in treating addictions a “COVID silver lining.” But he said the pandemic brought on some changes for the better. One is the expansion of telehealth for treatment.

"We always knew we were short of providers in the western half of our state," Burgum said. "And now, people across the state can have access to professionals via telehealth."

Burgum said the pandemic also spurred growth in “peer support specialists” and “care coordinators.”

"We know from the data that someone may be unable to get an appointment with a professional, and even if they do, they see that person one hour a month," Burgum said. "Having someone who is constantly there to support them through peer support, and now with Medicaid reimbursement for certified peer support specialists, we're building an army of workforce in the state that we would have never had before."

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