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Breaking Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Services in ND

May 14, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - The oil boom in western North Dakota is shining a light on a problem statewide: the difficulty many people have in accessing mental health services. Susan Rae Helgeland, executive director of Mental Health America of North Dakota (MHAND), says one main issue is the lack of providers, especially in small towns.

"We need more people providing services. We need more resources. We need more supports in the community. And then there's transportation issues. Because of the oil boom, the issues have been illuminated and become even more visible."

Helgeland points to a plethora of behavioral health concerns, but says the main ones are anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

"Those are just as serious, in our estimation, as heart disease and high blood pressure, and they need to be treated. Otherwise, we are looking at consequences that could be hurtful to both the individual and to our state."

In an effort to make mental health services more accessible, a number of groups have come together to form the North Dakota Rural Behavioral Health Network. Among the members is Coal Country Community Health Center. Clinical quality care director Chastity Dolbec says communication is key.

"What we are trying to do is work collaboratively to establish a network to help improve access to behavioral health services and reduce existing barriers out there."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about half of Americans will experience some form of mental health problem at some point in their life.

More information is available at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND