Governor Scott welcomed the First Lady of North Dakota Kathryn Helgaas Burgum at his weekly press conference last week held at Lund’s Hoehl Family Building. The aim of the conference and visit was to discuss best practices for supporting babies exposed to addiction and their families. First Lady Burgum is a leader in North Dakota’s fight against addiction.
Governor Scott and Mrs Burgum were joined at the press conference by Barbara Rachelson – Lund’s Executive Director, Anne Johnston MD – Associate Professor of Pediatrics UVM Medical Center and founder of CHARM, Sally Borden, Executive Director, KidSafe Collaborative, and Coordinator of the CHARM Team, and Ken Schatz, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Children and Families (DCF). Barbara and others spoke about Lund’s collaborative programs with all the other featured agencies to ensure the health and longterm stability of women, children and families.
The power of cross system and public/private partnerships, as well as the truth of addiction as a brain disease not a choice, or worse a moral or personal failing, were the prevailing themes of everyone’s remarks. Mrs. Burgum welcomed the opportunity to learn more about Lund’s work including the Regional Partnership Program, a collaboration between Lund, ADAP, and DCF statewide. With substance use disorder an increasingly serious concern in North Dakota, she was eager to learn what Vermont does well, and about efforts to enhance the continuum of supports for parents and reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences.
The press conference was followed by a roundtable discussion facilitated by Lund Board member Jeanne Kennedy. Speakers from the press conference were joined by representatives from the state’s Division of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs, including Director Jolinda LaClair, Courtney Farrell, Lund’s Director of Child and Family Services and two mothers who have accessed Lund’s treatment, education and family support services. Each was given the opportunity to tell Mrs Burgum what they thought would be the most useful takeaway from her visit to Vermont.
Many of the dedicated professionals around the table spoke about the need to have a continuum of services and to remove as many barriers as possible in accessing treatment. They also spoke about the need to listen to and be directed by the people suffering with substance use disorder themselves. “These women have the most willpower and the most strength I have ever seen, ” said Courtney Farrell. “The key is that they need the community around to support them. They tell us what they need and we listen to them.” Many also spoke about the need to have an open and welcoming approach to treatment, to think differently and to understand that the path to recovery is complicated. Everyone must keep learning and communicating to effectively work together to formulate a longterm solution.
One of the mothers participating in the round table summed it up well, “I don’t believe I would be sober. I don’t believe I would have my children in my life. Or even be alive without these programs.” Everything is at stake in this work.
Lund is very grateful for the insight, collaboration and commitment of our partners in this life saving work. We are also very grateful to Mrs. Burgum for taking the time to visit, learn and listen. We know that her hard work will continue to make a difference for those suffering from substance use disorder in her home state.
Read about the press conference in this VT Digger article
Watch media coverage, including interviews with participants in the roundtable here
Learn more about Kathryn Helgaas Burgum and her work here