ND legislators approve 5 bill drafts for behavioral health

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Behavioral Health is a common talking point among politicians as something that needs more funding.

An interim legislative committee is sending five bill drafts to the full legislature that would cost more than $31 million with the goal of expanding behavioral health services like substance abuse prevention.

Each bill does something a little different:

Bill 1:$600,000 to the Department of Human Services for substance abuse prevention and early intervention services. https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/interim/19-0279-01000.pdf

Bill 2: New allocation of $7 million to DHS expanding the Free Through Recovery program to non-incarcerated populations. https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/interim/19-0280-02000.pdf

Bill 3: $400,000 to help DHS implement findings from July HSRI report, looking into the state’s behavioral health system. https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/interim/19-0281-02000.pdf

Bill 4: $24 million to expand targeted case management services. https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/interim/19-0282-01000.pdf

Bill 5: Create a peer support specialist certification. https://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/65-2017/interim/19-0305-01000.pdf

Each draft is trying to cast a net, giving services to more people who don't have treatment options now.

Every dollar spent on prevention saves $64 dollars on incarceration and treatment costs. So legislators are using that approach for behavioral health.

"We know we are short of services every study we have we're short of services so we added expansion of free through recovery work to non-criminals,” said Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo

"The only individuals that have access to the program are people who've already committed a crime. If we want to be able to offer services sooner, we need to be able to expand services upstream and support individuals who don't need to commit a crime in order to access to those services,” said Pam Sagness, Behavioral Health Division Director with DHS.

The Free Through Recovery program isn't the only planned expansion. Some legislators are nervous about how much money is being invested during tough times.

"My concern is that these bills together are totaling a tremendous amount of increase in dollars. Not that it isn't needed, it's an investment,” said Judy Lee, R-West Fargo.

For that investment to pay off, it will take more than the committee to get on board. The five bills will go to the full legislature during the next session.