Interim Committee Updates
Where does the time go? I looked at the calendar today and realized it is the middle of August already! Amazing. The last couple months have been full as the regular session closed and the legwork for the next session begins. For me, this involves reaching out to, and connecting with, a variety of groups, agencies and individuals to collectively begin looking at a variety of topics that we might make progress with in the next session.
In addition to the independent work, I was thrilled to learn of my appointment to the two Legislative Interim Committees I’d been hoping for: Human Services and Government Services. Really – I know. My husband tells me I have a bizarre sense of fun, but I was genuinely thrilled with these appointments!
First up was the Human Services Committee on July 31st. It was great to be back at the Capitol for a day and to reconnect with so many of our fellow trench mates. The committee consists of ten Representatives and seven Senators, and is a good mix of people from a wide range of backgrounds, interests and experiences. Our focus is three main topics… the study of Behavioral Health Needs of Youth and Adults, of Home and Community Based Services and of a Comprehensive System of Care for Individuals with Brain Injury. As is true for most topics involving Human Services, the day was long – filled with great testimony.
• The study of Behavioral Health Needs is, as one would imagine, huge, complex – and highly relevant. It was prompted by Senate Bill 2243 as a means to consider the needs as well as the access, availability and delivery of services. Some of the resource partners include the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the Department of Human Services, the State Hospital, Human Service Centers and the Department of Corrections. Testimony was extensive and the follow-up discussion was excellent. A plan was adopted that includes contracting with an independent resource for consulting and coordination of the study to keep the process effective and goal oriented. Given the enormity of the subject and the potential impacts to North Dakota residents, I am particularly excited with this study – and these first steps forward were great.
• The System of Care for Brain Injuries was introduced through House Bill 1012 for a study of a comprehensive system of care for people with brain injury. It includes veterans returning from war, considers the need for increased awareness, and the need of a statewide registry for the coordination of available services and programs. We received a range of testimony that included statistical information as well as first hand experiences from people with brain injury. The agreed upon plan of action for the study will include further research into the affects of brain injury and how we might be able to improve upon processes, program availability and a coordinated registry.
• The third study, on Home and Community Based Services, is near and dear to my heart. As my mother grew older and her health needs increased, she needed a hand. She didn’t need me hovering over her, or worrying, but the truth was simple: Her independent living hinged on our ability to provide some insurances of safety, nutrition, and companionship in her life. For a while we were able to find some help with this, but our rural areas, in particular, have far fewer available services than our urban counterparts – finding qualified home based care is a challenge. Keeping people home, longer, is better for their overall health and happiness – and is far less expensive than the traditional health care solutions. This is not to say our long term or assisted care units aren’t important. They are. But, if more people were able to stay home longer, their focus would shift to the population that require this level of care as it becomes appropriate in their lives. The proverbial win-win. This study will include a Medicaid waiver to cover emergency assistance, adult companion services, behavioral programming, chore services – and other programs that might further the goal of independent living in North Dakota.
It was a great day back at the Capitol – and I really look forward to seeing how these studies progress! Will report more as they play out. Please let me know if there are questions, thoughts or concerns out there you think should be discussed.
Til next time…
Rep. Gail Mooney