Lawmakers give boost to Substance Use Disorder voucher program

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Lawmakers this legislative session boosted behavioral health funding, with one program receiving nearly double the money it did last session.

The Substance Use Disorder voucher program fast-tracks the recovery process for those in need of care.

We talked with one addiction treatment center about how it’s helping a problem in the state that just keeps growing.

Kurt Snyder sees addiction first-hand, and he says, since the pandemic, it’s only gotten worse.

“People were just so much more impaired. They came to us more impaired, and then we had less resources,” said Snyder, the Heartview Foundation executive director.

Heartview, an addiction treatment center in Bismarck, opened in 2007 with eight employees. Today they have 125.

Those extra employees help meet the growing need for recovery services in North Dakota.

That includes the Substance Use Disorder voucher program, which allows those who may not live close to a public treatment center to still receive services at a private provider.

“Services that are covered in the voucher include everything from individual therapy, to group therapy, family therapy, and also residential services,” said Pamela Sagness, North Dakota Department of Human Services Behavioral Health Division director.

The 2019 legislature set aside $8 million to fund the program for two years, but it ran out of funding by last summer because of increased participation.

This year, it’ll have $15 million, which those at the state Human Services Department expect to last the entire biennium.

“We see about a 30 percent growth in the number of participants every year. We right now have served more than 4200 individuals in the state of North Dakota,” said Sagness.

Having that extra funding means the voucher can continue to give care to those in need quicker.

While it can take months to enroll in Medicaid, Snyder says the voucher allows for immediate assistance before a patient can be approved for more complete coverage.

“It allows whoever’s knocking on the door, for us to take them in the order that they’re knocking. It just allows people that immediate access and then we can go back and get the coverage for ongoing care,” said Synder.

Sagness says addiction touches everyone in some way or another, so supporting solutions is key.

“Addiction is connected to a lot of other things in our system, from foster care to depression and all of the things, so as a society, addiction is something we should all be invested in,” said Sagness.

Snyder says the same.

“Addiction is almost like this boulder that goes into a pond. These ripples go out in all different directions affecting everything negative in the community, but recovery is the same thing. It’s a boulder going into the pond with positive ripples going out, affecting the community,” Snyder said.

The voucher program will be up and running on July 1 of this year.

There are however, still services available right now at all of the Human Service Centers in the state.

For more on the voucher program, click here.

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