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Bismarck’s Mayor Mike Schmitz announced that Renae Moch, Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Director, will lead several of the City’s new initiatives to address the effects of the addiction and mental health crisis in the community. Moch has previously led collaborative community efforts addressing behavioral health, addiction and homelessness through the Burleigh-Morton Behavioral Health Coalition.
Initial meetings with several agencies and businesses have taken place, and will be expanding in the months ahead. As a first step, the Bismarck City Commission approved the use of $17,395.93 it received from the multi-district litigation related to opioid manufacturers and distributors, to be used as match funding for the efforts.
Schmitz hopes to grow this fund with contributions from residents through a pilot “Better Bismarck” fund raising effort. The text-to-give campaign began as an idea from the Downtown Business Association of Bismarck and grew into a collaboration with community partners. The campaign will serve as a way for Bismarck to address some of the root causes of crisis homelessness: addiction and mental health.
Those who are looking for an alternative way to support individuals experiencing a behavioral health or homeless crisis can text-to-give by texting “BetterBis” to 801801. The donor will receive a text with a link to the donation page to make their tax-deductible donation. Donors may also go online and donate at https://donorbox.org/better-bismarck. The pilot program will be evaluated in January to see if there is traction for change through this process and if other businesses wish to participate.
“This is a six-week pilot program to assess if residents are seeking an alternative way to support individuals who are homeless and experiencing behavioral health issues,” states Schmitz. “The plan is to close this pilot the first week of January, extend the grant opportunity to local organizations serving homeless, and distribute half of the funds during the first half of the year.”
One local business, Big Boy, is the first to sign on to participate in the initiative, posting signs encouraging people to donate. Owner Chad Wachter states, “I’m thrilled to have Big Boy support this community-wide effort to improve our services to individuals who are homeless. It is a solid first step in addressing what seems to be an overwhelming issue, but I am confident we can do better as a community.”
Mayor Schmitz and city staff are committed to working with business leaders and non-profits to create solutions to this critical issue in Bismarck. In this role, Moch will collaborate with community partners to streamline and improve services, key initiatives for the mayor. The funds collected through the campaign will be dedicated to augment local non-profit organizations providing services for individuals with behavioral health and addiction also experiencing homelessness. All local non-profits will have the opportunity to apply for this funding through a transparent process announced at a later date.