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BISMARCK –  Governor Doug Burgum and First Lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum brought together health professionals, tribal leaders and others from across the state this week to discuss a collaborative approach to facing addiction in North Dakota communities.

Dozens of state legislators, tribal leaders, citizens affected by addiction, treatment providers, nonprofits and public system providers took part in Wednesday’s breakfast at the Radisson Hotel in Bismarck.

Addiction impacted roughly 1 in 10 North Dakotans in the past year, and half of all arrests in North Dakota in 2015 were drug- or alcohol-related, according to state and federal statistics. In North Dakota, 75 percent of individuals in prison have an addiction, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported.

“The governor and I pledge to work to reduce the social stigma surrounding addiction and treat it like the chronic disease that it is,” Kathryn said. “We envision a state where prevention works, treatment is effective and people recover from addiction.”

Pamela Sagness, director of the Behavioral Health Division in the North Dakota Department of Human Services, said the department is pleased to work with the first lady in her efforts to fight addiction. “There is hope in recovery,” Sagness said.

A video played during the breakfast can be viewed here: Substance Prevention Video

Addiction also was among the topics discussed during an inaugural day luncheon Wednesday that involved tribal leaders and members, tribal college presidents, the governor and first lady, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford and his wife, Sandi, and the governor’s cabinet members and staff.

Mark Fox, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, commended the governor for fostering dialogue between the state and tribes and urged him to maintain an open-door policy, calling the meeting “a wonderful start to that process.”

“This is by far the most we will have done in any administration to start it out between Indian nations and the state itself,” Fox said.

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