Voices of Dickinson: Residents weigh in on education, health

A five-part series delving into what people in Dickinson are saying. The series will feature people on the street interviews, polling data and highlights on where the city stands on education, health, poverty, economy, infrastructure, crime, taxes and budget. Part I focuses on education and health. What does the citizenry think of the services available, their effectiveness and what would they like to see done?

The state of education is examined in the first part of a multi-part series highlighting citizen concerns. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickisnon Press)

A survey conducted around the city of Dickinson by The Press engaged with more than 50 residents who shared their thoughts on education and health in Dickinson, with many calling for a stronger push for systematic improvements to the system and additional health care services options.

This five-part series delves into what people in Dickinson are saying in street interviews, in-person and online polling data, and more. The series will focus on highlighting the city's performance in the key areas of education, health, poverty, economy, infrastructure, crime, taxes and fiduciary trust in budgetary matters — from a resident's perspective.

We begin with responses related to education and health care in Dickinson.

How do Dickinson residents feel about its education?

With Dickinson ranking among the lowest in North Dakota in testing scores, 13% of residents said they were "very dissatisfied," 46% were "dissatisfied," 23% responded with "no answer," 13% were "satisfied" and 5% were "very satisfied."

When asked how residents feel about Dickinson’s education system, females 45 years old and younger responded with: 37% saying that education needs "major improvements," 26% said education needs "minor improvements," 16% responded with a neutral answer, while 16% said the education system is "good" and 5% said that the education system is "great." Females over 45 reflected similar answers, with 20% saying education needs "major improvements," 40% said education needs "minor improvements," 30% responded neutrally and 10% said that the education system is "good."


Males 45 years old and younger responded to the same question with 19% saying the education system "needs major improvements," 50% said that the education system "needs minor improvements," 19% stayed neutral and 12% thought the education system is "good."

For males over 45, 36% said education "needs minor improvements," 9% responded with a neutral answer, 46% said the education system is "good" and 9% said the education system is "great."

Ways to improve education in Dickinson

A few respondents to the survey provided their solutions on how to improve the education system in Dickinson, with some advocating for in-person schooling without the mandates for masks and social distancing; avoiding having teachers teach online classes from remote areas out of the state, and additional space and better facilities to allow for modernization.

One respondent stated, “Focus on teaching the kids with the end goal of learning more at the front of their minds than standardized test scores.”

A few respondents noted that there needs to be more guidance to help IEP (individualized education plan) students at the middle school with smaller classes so students don’t fall behind, while another person called for more field trips and avoiding an overload of on-screen learning.

An inside look at health


Dickinson residents call for mental health services in a survey examined in the first part of a multi-part series highlighting citizen concerns. (Dickinson Press File Photo)

When asked for the most important health issues facing Dickinson, the clear answer from residents was that major problems exist with mental illness and behavioral health in the city. Other answers included cancer treatment options, alcohol abuse, obesity, lack of treatment facilities, drug addiction and anxiety.

For females, 62% said that Dickinson is "somewhat equipped" with medical services (emergency and non-emergency), while 24% responded that the city was "equipped," 7% responded that it was "not equipped," 4% said it was "moderately equipped" and 3% said "strongly equipped."

On the other side, males responded to the same question with 11% saying that Dickinson is "not well equipped" with medical services, 31% responded with "somewhat equipped," 15% responded with "moderately equipped," 35% said that they believe the city is "well equipped" and 8% responded with "strongly equipped."

What’s missing for health services in Dickinson?

People who completed the survey were also given the opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns on how the medical field in Dickinson could improve.

Several respondents replied with strong arguments for increased behavioral health services, including mental illness and rehabilitation treatment centers.


One respondent noted, “I never needed medical services, per se, but it was a hassle to schedule an appointment with a counselor. So I never went because it took too long.”

Other answers reflected that there should be a speedier process for appointments and referrals and that more medical services should be available in the southwest North Dakota region so patients do not have to travel so far in the state to receive care. Other suggestions included adding more specialists to hospitals in Dickinson, while others advocated for more dental services.

Relating to specialty services, many called for more of an emphasis on treating the root issues rather than the secondary effects — such as pain — and reducing prescription drugs.

One respondent replied with, “Putting more of an emphasis on providing compassionate care to their patients. There seems to be a culture amongst Dickinson’s medical professionals that has them seeing themselves as superior to their clients.”

Responses forthcoming

As part of this series of articles relating to education, health, poverty, economy, infrastructure, crime, taxes and budget, The Press will gather the information provided and relay the concerns to city, state and school board officials. In the following weeks, the second part of the series will feature the responses from officials with interviews relating to what actions can be taken to address concerns.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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