Communities across the state will be live-streaming a Day for Prevention, including Williston. The event is part of an effort Gov. Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum are championing to reinvent and improve recovery in North Dakota.

Many communities in North Dakota have been underserved when it comes to behavioral health care needs, which includes treatment for addictions, but it is not just small frontier communities that have experienced severe shortages. Problems are occurring in larger communities as well, including Williston, which lacks residential treatment facilities and has several other shortages, including adolescent programs.

The Day of Prevention aims to spread cutting-edge knowledge about evidence-based, effective treatment statewide, as well as connect community stakeholders together under one roof, where they can connect and network.

Jenny Olson, managing director of the newly created Office of Recovery Reinvented, will emcee the event, which includes a number of top-notch experts in preventing and treating addiction.

“Participants will be able to connect with other individuals who share a desire to implement effective substance abuse prevention,” said Department of Human Service’s Behavioral Health division Director Pamela Sagness. “They will learn what effective substance abuse prevention looks like, will discover resources and tools, and can participate in discussions on emerging issues.”

The livestream event in Williston is free. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Williston State College Teton Lounge, 1410 University Avenue. A lunch break will be provided, but participants should bring a sack lunch or plan to get something at that time.

Substance abuse is an important part of the state’s comprehensive approach to addressing behavioral health needs, Burgum said. Experts estimate that prevention can save an average of $64 for every $1 invested.

“People understand that preventing drug and alcohol abuse is important, and that effective prevention programs are a good investment,” he said. “We are pleased to be able to host national and state experts to share information about effective prevention tools we can use now to save lives and money.”

One of the agencies in the area that has been working hard in the area of prevention is Summit Counseling, a non-profit started by Brenda Owen. She is particularly heartened by the conference, and said she really appreciates what the governor and his wife are trying to do.

“I’m so grateful to the governor for what he is doing,” she said. “It’s all about addressing the fear that has risen up in people. People are scared of addiction because of stereotypes. What the governor and first lady are trying to do is get rid of this stigma.”

Prevention is where everything needs to start, Owen added.

“That is where it needs to start,” she said. “Our goal is to stop people from falling in the river, instead of fishing them out.”

Prevention does require funding, however, she added.

“You cannot bill insurance for it,” she said. “We have a plethora of ideas we’d like to do, but we would need funding to do them.”


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