Bismarck State College National Energy Center of Excellence | April 11, 2018 | Bismarck, ND

“Perhaps we can turn a day for prevention into a generation for prevention.”
“If we are ever going to get equity, we need to walk through truth.”
~ Dr. Donald Warne, (Speaking in relation to unresolved trauma, addiction and the importance of health equity)

North Dakota communities recognize investing in substance abuse prevention is important. In fact, it is one of the best investments we can make for our future –creating safe and healthy individuals, families, businesses and communities.

A Day of Prevention, held on April 11, 2018, in Bismarck, North Dakota, and live-streamed to sites across the state, aimed 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.

Announced at a similar event last year, 2017 Recovery Reinvented: “Substance abuse prevention is an important component of the continuum of care, which represents a comprehensive approach to behavioral health. Eighty-nine percent of North Dakota adults believe preventing drug and alcohol use is important, and 72 percent believe drug and alcohol prevention programs are a good investment—saving lives and money.”

Great Plains QIN staff from North Dakota attended both in person at the event and via livestream with community coalitions. “It was inspiring to be part of an event where participants were working together to find innovative solutions to combat something that has had such an impact on our communities. Solutions across sectors are happening!” stated Tracey Regimbal, RHIT, HIT; Quality Improvement Specialist with Great Plains QIN.

Communities holding live-streamed gatherings for stakeholders unable to attend the in-person event included:  Grand Forks, Williston, Fargo, Dickinson and Devils Lake as well as several others. This provided an opportunity for networking and engagement for those interested in collaborating in their community’s efforts.

Haley Thorson, RN, Grand Forks Public Health, organized the local event. Thorson saw the event as an opportunity to take advantage of the Governor’s innovative approach to delivering his message in a cost and time effective way. Also, having everyone in the same room allows for dialogue and networking around this important topic. Thorson stated: “Grand Forks is very fortunate to have several groups and coalitions whose mission is to reduce substance use and abuse”.

Thorson added, “Several of those groups were already slated to come together just a couple of days following the Day for Prevention to participate in strategic planning training from the nationally-recognized Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. We felt that if we hosted the Day for Prevention event in Grand Forks, it would foster forethought that could be captured in the strategic planning session. It was extremely motivating for us all to have the opportunity to collectively hear what the Governor, First Lady and all of the other great presenters had to say.”

“A large amount of time was spent assuring that we must change the culture surrounding addiction.” noted Thorson. “The idea of treating addiction as a brain disease and not a ‘moral failing’ was mentioned several times throughout the day. When we do that, we get interested in the science of addiction and that only propels the movement to identify the upstream causes of addiction and allows us to address addiction before it begins. In other words…prevention.”

Williston State College (WSC) hosted a site organized by Lori Gotvaslee, Regional Director with the ND Dept of Human Services, and Jenny Wolf, Director of Creative Services at WSC. Wolf, along with WSC’s mental health coordinator, Leah Hoffman, promoted the event at the college and also engaged the student population.

Hoffman stated, “The effects of substance abuse are multifaceted and the damage to quality of life reaches far beyond the individual user. Consequently, communities must respond with a unified approach. It seems the majority of people understand and agree that substance abuse is a priority community health issue. Adequately addressing it, especially in rural areas, takes time. One action step that can be addressed immediately, however, is prevention efforts. I appreciate the push for stakeholder collaboration at the outset as I hope it can provide the needed support for implementing future community-wide improvements.”

Hoffman sees this event as an appropriate event for students, community members and stakeholders because substance abuse affects everyone — those who abuse substances and those who don’t. Hoffman hopes those in attendance walk away with a better understanding of how substance abuse is impacting North Dakota, action steps to prevent substance abuse, knowledge of local resources and the confidence that key stakeholders are making critical strides to provide adequate treatment services.

Notable quotes from Doug Burgum, Governor of the State of North Dakota:
“Stigma builds walls instead of bridges.”
“We have moved $7 million dollars ‘upstream’ out of the correctional system into our prevention budget.”
“Prevention is rooted in data.”
“Every single day we can make a difference in people’s lives. We know we can do better.”

Narcan was distributed to all on-site participants as well at the live-stream sites. Recipients were trained on the proper administration of Narcan.