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North Dakota is in the midst of dealing with two public health crises, the recent and pervasive COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing behavioral health crisis of both substance use disorders and mental health issues. Not surprisingly, the emergence of COVID-19 has exacerbated the already overwhelming issue of addiction in our communities. Our treatment centers have seen an increase in people seeking treatment for addiction and in the FM community there have been over 20 overdose deaths this year to date.  

The North Dakota Addiction Counselor Association (NDACA), North Dakota Addiction Treatment Providers Coalition (NDATPC), and North Dakota Coalition of Training Consortiums (NDCOTC) together represent a group of over 400 licensed addiction professionals in North Dakota committed to improving the health and recovery of individuals, families, and communities experiencing problems with substance use disorders (SUD).

A cohesive, comprehensive plan will be needed to address the behavioral health needs of our citizens both today and in the months and years to come. As such, the NDACA, NDATPC, and NDCOTC support the following:

•The re-instatement and full funding of the ND Substance Use Disorder Voucher Program to include acceptance of new providers and participants. The SUD Voucher Program has served as a safety net for those without health insurance or adequate resources to access addiction treatment in ND, however funding ended in July for people seeking to enroll in the program. Since its inception in 2015 the Voucher Program has helped over 3,556 individuals access services for a substance use disorder (as of September 31, 2019).  

•Mental Health and Addiction Parity. The Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) of 1996 required insurers to treat SUD and mental health care the same way they treat medical and physical care. However, the law has not been adequately enforced or regulated, resulting in individuals being denied care or care that is only given in an “acute care” framework rather than the more successful recovery management model of care. We support the full implementation and enforcement of parity at the state level. When insurance coverage is inadequate, it results in increased social costs (jails, hospitals, lost employment and family disruption).

•Workforce Development: The behavioral health field is experiencing a workforce shortage. Efforts to increase our workforce must be balanced against the recognition that the SUD profession is a specialty health care profession that requires specific competencies, training, skills, and education.  We support aggressive efforts to increase recruitment, retention, and reimbursement for our profession.  

We look forward to continued community discussions and appreciate the work of our local and state leaders in supporting the enhancement of SUD services for our citizens.  

Respectfully,

North Dakota Coalition of Training Consortiums (NDCOTC) Patti L. Senn, MS/LPCC/LMAC/MAC Chair

North Dakota Addiction Counselor Association (NDACA) Megan Ekren, LMAC/LPCC Chair

North Dakota Addiction Treatment Providers Coalition (NDATPC) Ty Hegland, President/CEO ShareHouse, Chair

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