Senators Heckaman, Mathern to introduce amendment restoring $7 million in behavioral health funding

Amendment would also secure additional $7 million in matching federal funds for behavioral health


Thursday, April 6


(BISMARCK, N.D.) – Democratic-NPL Senators Joan Heckaman (New Rockford) and Tim Mathern (Fargo) will today offer an amendment on the Senate floor restoring $7 million in state funds for behavioral health services – and securing an additional $7 million in matching federal dollars – to House Bill 1040.

The bill, which comes from the Interim Human Services Committee, originally recommended $28 million in funding for unmet behavioral health needs in North Dakota. However, due to the tightening of budgets across the state, the final version of the bill passed by the House included only $200,000 for behavioral health, less than one percent of the original recommended funding.

“There are very few things we place higher in our lives than the well being of our spouses, children, grandchildren and loved ones,” said Heckaman. “Our whole beings are elated with the joy they bring us, which is why it is so painful when a loved one is suffering from addiction, abuse or other mental health needs that too often go unaddressed here in North Dakota. The unfortunate fact is that too many families across our state are suffering without the care they need.”

“This funding is absolutely necessary to address our state’s crisis in behavioral health care,” said Mathern. “The funding that is restored in this amendment would provide case management services, which essentially means providing families with the full range of care they need to keep children with behavioral health needs out of the hospitals and in their own homes.”

HB 1040 encompasses the recommendations of the Schulte Report and was drafted by the interim committee with numerous hours of stakeholder testimony that mental health services in North Dakota are insufficient given the level of need across the state. The bill is the only legislation during the 65th session that includes funding for children under 21 years old suffering from Serious Emotional Disturbances, about 3,917 children across the state. Currently, funding is only available to provide services to 645, leaving over 3,200 children and families without the care they need. Of that unmet need, roughly half would qualify for the case management services funded by this amendment.    

“Too often, when it comes to our state’s budget situation, we hear lawmakers say: ‘The sky isn’t falling; trust us, we’ll work it out,’” added Mathern. “Well, for parents whose children are suffering from addiction, depression, or who are at risk of suicide, the sky really is falling, especially when they’re not getting the care they need.”