Dakota Medical Foundation

Dakota Medical Foundation

Dakota Medical Foundation

Press Release: Tackling the Mental Health Epidemic

DMF Convenes Regional Mental Healthcare Providers to Tackle Mental Health Epidemic

One of the most shocking statistics shared at a mental health roundtable held at Dakota Medical Foundation on Thursday, March 31, came from the Sanford FM Ambulance team: Substance abuse and psychiatric episodes accounted for more than 10 percent of the 35,000 total calls their team fielded in the past year, making behavioral health emergencies the leading reason for paramedic response.

It highlighted just one of the many challenges that regional providers, clinicians, and therapists face as they struggle to meet demand for mental health services while rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicide continue to soar.

The results of a pre-event survey of the 26 providers, who represented 14 local healthcare organizations and private practices, indicated a number of workforce-related issues throughout the sector:

  • A substantial shortage of qualified mental health professionals
  • Therapists leaving large healthcare organizations to go into private practice
  • An inability to adapt to and accommodate flexible scheduling requirements for both providers and patients alike
  • A lack of communication and coordination among providers
  • Increased provider and staff turnover due to employee burnout, decreased satisfaction, and higher wage expectations

The survey also provided some insight into what providers believe are preventing people from accessing adequate, affordable mental healthcare:

  • An inability to get in and see a provider, which can sometimes take months
  • Lack of coordinated and affordable community resources, including transportation and other basic needs
  • Long wait times
  • Inadequate follow-up care
  • Overcomplicated and prohibitively expensive insurance coverage

Among the proposed solutions at the session were:

  • Provider credentialing and insurance reform
  • Provider license reciprocity
  • A greater investment in community education around mental health, specifically a need to change the culture around seeking help
  • A more coordinated, unified voice for mental healthcare providers in the state of North Dakota

“Today was about hope for a group of people who spend a lot of their time helping children and families move forward,” said Nexus-PATH Operations Director Heather Simonich. “Sometimes, you start to feel that what you do isn’t making a difference, but putting people together with that same passion and commitment brings hope.”

The group plans to meet regularly to address issues related to mental health workforce, funding, and education.

The discovery session was attended by:

  • Anne Carlsen Center CEO Tim Eissinger
  • Former Anne Carlsen Center CEO Eric Monson
  • Catholic Charities North Dakota Executive Director Dianne Nechiporenko
  • Catholic Charities North Dakota Director of Counseling Ken Scheller
  • Dakota Family Services LCSW Christy Wilkie
  • Dakota Family Services Director of Residential Services Tom Kopp
  • Dakota Family Services VP of Outreach and Services Randi Streff
  • Essentia Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rich Vetter
  • Essentia Health Behavioral Health Chair Jo Ellison
  • Fraser, Ltd. Executive Director Sandra Leyland
  • Fraser, Ltd. LCSW Amanda Lindstrom
  • Nexus-PATH Executive Director Clete Winkelmann
  • Nexus-PATH Director of Community-Based Services Shawna Croaker
  • Nexus-PATH Operations Director Heather Simonich
  • Prairie St. John’s Director of Clinical Services Amanda Richter
  • Rape and Abuse Crisis Center Chief Program Officer Myla Korbel
  • Red River Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Anna Frissell
  • Retired therapist Charley Joyce
  • Sanford Health Executive Director of Emergency and Trauma Services Sherm Syverson
  • Sanford Health Executive Director of Primary Care & Behavioral Health Kathryn Norby
  • Sanford Health Head of Strategic Community Partnerships Joel Vettel
  • Southeast Human Service Center Care Coordinator Alanna Zeller
  • St. Sophie’s Executive Administrator Jean Frei
  • Valley Christian Counseling Center Co-CEO Nicole Rostad
  • Former Valley Christian Counseling Center CEO Dan Borsheim
  • The Village Family Service Center President and CEO Kelly Olson


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