- Associated Press - Thursday, August 10, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Bismarck is expected to be one of four sites for a pilot program aimed to help people in the criminal justice system find addiction and behavioral health services.

Although some resources exist, many offenders are falling through the cracks and going back to jail, The Bismarck Tribune reported . The $7.5 million program will fund caseworkers to keep offenders on track.

The initiative is funded by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s biennial budget set aside for behavioral health. It will be geared toward medium- to high-risk people on probation and parole who also have a behavioral health issue, including substance abuse. Judges could also have the ability to add the program as a condition of release from jail.

“We’re hoping this will really allow sentencing reform to take hold and help judges feel comfortable and willing to keep people out of jail or prison,” said Lisa Peterson, clinical director for the Corrections Department.

The Corrections Department and the Human Services Department will accept applications from vendors later this month. Treatment centers, health care providers and community organizations are potential vendors that could hire caseworkers.

“It’s going to be very difficult, but we have spent years talking about the problem and we have, for the first time, the opportunity to have an impact,” said Pam Sagness, director of the behavioral health division at the Human Services Department.

The program won’t pay for services that are already funded, but it could fill in gaps for services, such as transportation for people having a hard time getting to treatment.

The pilot program is expected to launch in the fall. Programs also will launch in Devils Lake, Fargo and Dickinson.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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