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Lee: Legislators wrap up off-year committee work

By Judy Lee

Legislative interim committees are all very busy, wrapping up their assigned studies before the final reports and any proposed bills are moved forward to be considered in the 2015 legislative session.

There are many topics being reviewed, some of which have been discussed earlier in the year. Here, I will provide brief updates on progress with a future report on results.

Behavioral Health has been a big study topic, led by a consultant who has researched what North Dakota has available, where the gaps in services are, and what can be done to provide appropriate services throughout the state.

There has been extraordinary participation by stakeholders from around North Dakota not only providers of services, such as mental health professionals, but also from human service center staff, law enforcement, K-12 education, veterans’ and military concerns, and recipients of services who have found long waiting times. The stakeholders have met regularly, in person and on conference calls, to provide input to the consultant, and the final report will be available after it is presented to the Human Services Committee on July 22. It can be viewed at as part of the agenda for the committee.

Vulnerable adult protective services studies continue to work on both physical abuse and neglect and financial abuse of North Dakotans. Don’t think that it does not happen here. It does. Whether it is an elderly person or someone with an intellectual disability who is cheated out of assets by a family member or caregiver, there is way more of this than we would like to think could happen here.

Medical professionals provided startling information about neglect of elderly individuals by those who are supposed to be caring for them, often a family member. If children appear to have been abused, a day care provider or someone in school will often notice and report it. If an elderly person does not leave her apartment for months, no one really notices, and the adult son who benefits from her senior apartment and her Social Security check doesn’t provide the most basic care needed.

We need to determine how to protect individuals at risk without interfering with their right to determine their own way of living. It’s a challenge, but we want no less for our vulnerable neighbors.

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise throughout North Dakota, and it’s not only in the Oil Patch. The problem is that users or sellers are stealing medications from people’s homes. Keep those pill bottles safely stored out of sight, not on the kitchen window ledge or a bathroom medicine cabinet. A visitor can easily find them and, even if not all pills are taken, enough can be taken to get into the illegal market. Users will put many different pills in a bowl and grab a handful to see what happens.

It won’t happen, if we keep our pills secured. That includes home sellers where unscrupulous people posing as prospective buyers can see the house and know where to go to break in later and get the medications.

North Dakotans continue to be concerned about one another and want to resolve these problems, so the work of these committees will be a basis for change.

Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo represents District 13 in the North Dakota Senate.