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Behavioral health plans moving forward


The behavioral health division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services has contracted with a firm that developed a report on the status of behavioral health in the state – to help the implementation of a statewide plan.

The group is the “Human Services Research Institute.”

"The action that we need to do to make sure that report becomes more than just a report with recommendations, but actionable steps that we can more forward will continue," said Behavioral Health division director Pam Sagness. "We're excited about that."

The Behavioral Health Planning Council will act as the steering team for the plan’s implementation.

"The group has more than 50 percent consumers, family members and advocacy," Sagness said. "They will make sure the strategies we're implementing, and how to prioritize these strategies, will be beneficial to those who need these services the most."

The Institute released its report in April. It made a number of recommendations – including the expansion of outpatient and community-based services, as well as efforts to make modifications to the state’s criminal justice strategies. There were more than 65 recommendations in 13 different categories.

"For example, when there was an identified gap of community-based services, we have to identify what we can do about that," Sagness said. "Are there resources we can expand? Is there funding that may be needed? Do we have to change policies to remove barriers?"

Sagness said there has been a broad endorsement of the report, and the need to make improvements. She said state Legislators and Gov. Doug Burgum realize the needs.

The current funding for the implementation phase runs through June 30th.

"Now the consideration is -- how do we make sure that we can continue to have this effort move pasy June 30th?" Sagness said.

"There's definitely an understanding that there is work to be done," said Burgum policy advisor Sean Cleary. "That report clearly provides a good blueprint for the state going forward, as we talk about moving dollars upstream and providing better access to behavioral health treatment."

Cleary said Burgum is working on his budget proposal, to be given to the Legislature in December.

"I can't specifically comment about what's going to be in or out of the Governor's budget," Cleary said. "But with the report, there will be recommendations that need to be fiscally addressed, and some policies will also have to be looked at."

But Cleary said this is a priority for Burgum.

"It is one of his strategic initiatives," Cleary said.

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