North Dakota unfortunately ranks high in a recent study involving juvenile drug use. The state had the third-highest rate of juvenile drug arrests in 2017, coming in behind South Dakota and Wyoming.
In the past the state has ranked high in underage drinking and binge drinking. The juvenile arrest study was conducted by the Greenhouse Treatment Center in Texas. While the total number of arrests in 2017 was low, 476, when compared to the state’s population the percentages landed North Dakota in third. The number of juvenile arrests increased 70 percent from 2008 to 2017.
South Dakota had 46 violations per 10,000 children; Wyoming had 35 per 10,000; and North Dakota had almost 27 per 10,000. Minnesota ranked 17th with 14 per 10,000 children. It’s interesting that the top three states are largely rural, low population areas. It shows that isolated areas are just as susceptible to drugs as urban environments. Pam Sagness, behavioral health division director for the North Dakota Human Services Department, told the Forum News Service that drug abuse often is the result of a behavioral health issue instead of a criminal issue.
Sagness noted that there are few behavioral health services available in the state for children, thus many children don’t get help until they land in the juvenile court system. The behavioral health division has been working with the Legislature on preventing juvenile drug abuse so children don’t land in court. There’s no doubt the state has a drug problem and steps are being taken to fight it. However, it won’t be a quick victory.
North Dakota hasn’t been immune to the opiate epidemic that has hit the nation. The increased use of hard drugs like meth, cocaine and opiates concerns law enforcement officials, parents and educators. Drug crimes in the state, including juvenile drug violations, have increased in the last decade.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in North Dakota has worked with community groups in recent years to educate the public. People also need to be aware that behavioral health services are available and how to access them, and the focus needs to be on treatment and finding ways to keep children out of the court system. Sagness cites the need for providing community-based services, meeting needs for children at an earlier age and providing services from prevention to recovery.
Changing the drug culture will take time and resources. If we don’t commit to providing the resources the youth offenders will become adult offenders.
This week we learned of rankings that North Dakotans can be proud of. The University of Mary’s nursing program placed at the top in three categories in Mountain Measurements rankings. The program was first among similar programs, first within its jurisdiction and No. 1 at the national level. The yearly rankings are based on the 2018 bachelor of science in nursing graduates who took the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. All 66 U-Mary graduates passed the exam on the first try. That’s quite an accomplishment for the school.
In Tuesday’s Speaking Out column on Page A10 there was incorrect information. The Bismarck water rate increase will impact apartment complexes, businesses, commercial property, golf courses and city, county or state properties.