North Dakota raises funding for addiction treatment program that ran out of money

North Dakota raises funding for addiction treatment program that ran out of money

Legislators are investing significantly more to allow private treatment options for those who previously had to travel to regional human service centers for services. Many of those in the voucher treatment program are unemployed and some are homeless. The voucher program will resume on July 1. Since funding ran out, the state has used other funding sources — and private providers including Prairie St. John’s and ShareHouse have stepped up their access to charity care.

Pam Sagness, behavioral health director for the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said the increased funding signals a “new era” in addiction treatment in the state. Similarly, the state is imposing a funding moratorium on any new treatment centers of 16 beds or more that were built since July 1, 2020, when the voucher program was suspended because money ran out.

That distinction is made because treatment centers with more than 16 beds don’t qualify for Medicaid funding, meaning that the state has to pay the full cost. “They want to ensure that the program isn’t doubling every two years,” Sagness said. The $15 million funding level allows for growth of 30% over the next two years.

But legislators added some policy changes to restrain growth in the program. Funding will be allocated according to the size of residential treatment centers, with 55% going to those with fewer than 16 beds and 45% allocated to those with 16 beds or more. “We’re just really gratified to see there is understanding of the significant need,” she said, adding that the Senate and House appropriations committees delved deeply into the program and need for services.

“We do anticipate that we’ll start seeing a plateau,” she said. Officials couldn’t accurately predict the need for the program when the voucher system was created in 2015. Now that the program is more established, officials expect demand should level off, Sagness said.

Administrators at Prairie St. John’s and ShareHouse applauded the increased funding, but were disappointed in the limits on larger residential treatment centers. A $2 million grant will help provide voucher payments for those living in underserved areas, such as Dickinson, Williston and Devils Lake. Separately, a new law will allow access to out-of-state providers for clients living in underserved border communities. Addiction treatment center administrators say the program saves money by preventing addicts in crisis from showing up in hospital emergency rooms or jails, where costs are higher.

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