Experts discuss integrating behavioral health and incarceration

Experts in correctional and rehabilitation services weighed in on the issues and shared insights on how changes can be made to benefit everyone in our community
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 7:50 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -

Lately, our community has seen an alarming increase in crime rate, but many of these issues could be linked to mental health issues and substance abuse.

Many are wondering, what can be done to fix this issue?

The Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber hosted a panel focusing on just that.

“This is something that is at the forefront of our business leader minds, our community leaders minds, and then generally community members,” explains Jenna Mueller, Executive Director of The Chamber Foundation.

Community leaders are talking solutions to keep people safe, businesses productive, and break the cycle.

Director of North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services Pam Sagness says, “These are not two seperate systems, this is not a behavioral health system and a criminal justice system, this is a need for an integrated system.”

The North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reports 95% of women and 91% of men coming into correctional facilities are diagnosed with active substance use disorder. They also report 52% of women and 40% of men entering their facilities have an active mental health diagnosis.

“They’re struggling with addiction, they’re struggling with mental health and a lot of times their housing is unstable and they’ve got a lot of other issues that have impacted them throughout their lives,” says ND DORC Director Dave Krabbenhoft.

Many point out the cyclical nature of subtance abuse, mental health issues and incarceration, saying it’s key to integrate mental health services with rehabilitation.

Krabbenhoft says, “Giving people those skills or those services where they can deal with those addiction problems, we can address the stigma to it, we can also help people with their education.”

And that prevention starts with all of us.

Mueller says, “I do believe, as a community member, that it starts with youth and making sure that there’s connection to mentorship, there’s connection to acceptance, there’s connection to activity and that we are just surrounding our kids with love.”

Another important aspect of the discussion was the positive economic impact employers get by helping to manage the behavioral health of their employees. One such program, the ‘Good Jobs Challenge’ has seen 900 individuals within the last 3 years --including people with a justice-involved history---receive job training and development.

You can find more statistics by following the link here.