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Legislators dig for budget figures from addiction recovery office

Jenny Olson is the managing director of the Office of Recovery Reinvented and was asked to explain the office's funding and expenditure's at the state Capitol in Bismarck on Wednesday, April 25. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK—Funding of the Office of Recovery Reinvented came under the microscope Wednesday at a meeting of the interim Health Services Committee.

In January by executive order, Gov. Doug Burgum established the office to develop initiatives relating to recovery from addiction, which first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum has made her platform. Burgum donating his governor's salary helps fund the office.

"In terms of budget, this office is funded wholly through in-kind donations from nonprofit organizations," said Jenny Olson, managing director of the office. "We're very fortunate in that regard .... We identify priorities, we go forth and fundraise or seek out support to make those happen in unique and creative ways to move quickly to make a difference for North Dakota."

"So tell us what the budget is," chairwoman Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo, said to Olson after her presentation, further pressing her for "the number" and "what this is costing."

Olson said her office's two primary items are a donated $50,000 award for the Innovate Recovery Competition and a to-be-determined amount for the next Recovery Reinvented event to be held this fall in Fargo. Additionally, she said her salary is $80,000.

"Those are the significant line items that we have today," Olson said.

Lee then asked about spending authorization.

"In the governor's office appropriation bill, there was a section that has a continuing appropriation that any income that the governor receives may be spent, so that's the section that they're using to spend the money," legislative budget analyst and auditor Allen Knudson told Lee.

In an email to the Tribune, governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki included Olson's supplemental report to the committee, which outlines money received by the Office of Recovery Reinvented.

Donations included $51,524 from Burgum's salary, as well as $30,000 from the Dakota Medical Foundation for "administrative costs related to the project of addiction and recovery services."

The Innovate Recovery Competition award comes from "a private donor" through the Dakota Medical Foundation.

A news release from when Burgum established the office said general fund dollars won't go to its operations, programming or staffing, but "the office will be funded through philanthropic support as well as monetary and in-kind donations."

Rep. Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, commended Olson's office for the attention on addiction, but emphasized the importance of overall behavioral health needs and collaboration with related programs.

"What you described is absolutely our aspiration and vision for this office, that nothing is in a silo, that we are absolutely connected," Olson said.