GOP Legislative leaders: We'll 'set the table' for future spending on behavioral health

Jan 9, 2017

Republican Legislative leaders say they won’t be able to do as much as they would like in the area of behavioral health.

But they say they will do a few things.

Behavioral health advocates say there’s a growing need for community based treatment. Judges have said they have no choice but to sentence drug addicts and people with mental health issues to prison – because that’s the only treatment available.

The leaders say the money isn’t there to go full-bore into community treatment.

"I think we're going to make some progress there," said Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner (R-Dickinson). "It's not going to be about spending money. We will be setting the table, so when there is revenue available, we can do more."

Wardner said he understands the need.

"To be honest with you, it is costing us money to take these people who have addiction problems and incarcerate them," Wardner said. "We cannot build enough jails and prisons to take care of them."

House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) wants it to be done through public-private partnerships.

"The state can't solve all these problems by just waving a wand and saying we're going to put another $20 million into drug addiction," Carlson said. "There aren't enough working professionals in the marketplace."

Caerlson said the state and the private providers have to assess the services they require.

"It isn't just a money solution," Carlson said. "It's a behavioral change solution that we need to figure out how to do. And we can't do it without the private sector."