Intoxication Management an Issue in Western North Dakota

KX News talked to a Bismarck Law Enforcement Officer who says there are huge gaps in resources for handling intoxication in Western North Dakota.

Bismarck Police Department Deputy Chief Randy Ziegler says jailing people just because they are drunk or high creates an unnecessary revolving door, costing law enforcement agencies a lot of money that could be used elsewhere.

He says it also becomes a morale issue for officers because they don’t feel like they are solving the problem but simply putting a Band-Aid on it.

Ziegler explains, “We respond to a call where we have an individual passed out in an alley. We’ll use that as an example. When an officer gets there, basically they don’t have a place to take these people. These people end up going to our jail. That’s not really the place for them. They need treatment and they need services.”

The Bismarck-Mandan community is looking for some reform. The idea is to provide community resources for detoxification, including a place to go besides to jail or to a hospital.

A Sanford Doctor told KX News treating alcoholism in hospitals is the most expensive way to go about it.

He says with the longevity of care associated with intoxication and withdrawal management, there is a more effective way to handle it.

Sanford Emergency Department Physician, Dr. Chris Meeker adds, “We really don’t have an area to do social detoxification. We don’t have a low-barrier housing system. We don’t have good long-term housing for the homeless people in Bismarck. We do have some crisis care and a homeless shelter, but that really only addresses one small piece of the entire continuum of care required.”

Dr. Meeker says he has seen the number of people entering hospitals due to substance abuse or alcoholism trending upwards in recent years. He and Deputy Chief Ziegler hope the conversation can spark some change.

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