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Demand for substance abuse counseling rising

Although down one-third of its staff, the need for substance abuse counseling provided by Badlands Human Service Center in Dickinson has increased with the area’s growing population. In order to meet the needs of southwestern North Dakota and to maintain its level of service, the center has gone to creative lengths.

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“We utilize staff from the Department of Human Services West Central Human Service Center in Bismarck — which is basically our sister center,” said Lyden Ring, the assistant regional director for Badlands Human Service Center. “They travel here and do evaluations for us, and we also utilize what’s called telehealth — we’re able to do evaluations point to point from West Central to here over the (interactive television) equipment.”

The center is currently meeting the demand, Ring said, the wait times might be a bit longer, but it’s comparable to other human service centers around the state.

There are two licensed addiction counselors at Badlands Human Service Center and they are actively searching for a third, Ring said.

“Addiction counselors are hard to recruit and I think the demand for services is a little higher,” Ring said.

The centers in Minot and Williston are facing similar challenges, said Alex Schweitzer, North Dakota Department of Human Services director of field services.

“Our big need is to hire more addiction counselors,” Schweitzer said.

The complexity of addiction issues has increased with the population, Ring said.

“One of the issues is that people are facing homelessness along with their addiction issues, so that’s kind of a tough one to crack,” Ring said. “We do offer day treatment with a residential component.”

During the course of treatment, which is generally four to five weeks, Badlands Human Service Center is able to provide a place to live, Ring said. Help with finding affordable housing is part of exit counseling.

“I think our biggest impact is probably still alcohol and prescription drugs, and probably third to that is methamphetamine,” Ring said.

While different drugs have different effects on the body, the principles to treating addiction are the same.

“Obviously you have different nuances and different modalities that you use, but dependency to a chemical is treated pretty much similar,” Ring said. “Persons need to stop using the chemical in order to get better — that’s what it comes down to.”

With the help from the Bismarck center, the staff at Badlands Human Services has been able to balance work and personal time and provide the care needed.

Wait times for alcohol evaluations in DUI cases have increased, Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Ellis said.

“Just in general, that impacts our ability to get people in for services,” Ellis said. “I know it’s impacted the mental health part of it, and mainly the DUI stuff.”

There used to be a 30- to 60-day wait, but it’s up to 90 days lately, Ellis said.

Case prioritization could be the cause of longer wait times for such evaluations, Ring said.

“If there’s an (intravenous) drug user, we get them in within two weeks. If it’s a pregnant IV drug user, we need to work them in within 48 hours,” Ring said. “We have been able to continue to do that.”

There are three private counseling services in Dickinson, but Badlands Human Service Center offers an income-based sliding fee scale.

The center does everything it can administratively to make sure no time is wasted, including appointment confirmations 24 hours in advance, Ring said.

The director of Badlands and West Central human service centers is a licensed addiction counselor, and has been known to fill in and help out when necessary, Ring said.

“I do need credit the department and West Central Human Service Center for helping us out that way,” Ring said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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