Local Programs Continue Despite Defunding of BreatheND

The funding will now be housed at the North Dakota Department of Health

FARGO, ND — BreathND is done at the end of the month.

The legislature voted to defund the state’s tobacco prevention agency in April.

There will no longer be a statewide agency dedicated to tobacco prevention come July 1st.

The funding will now be housed at the North Dakota Department of Health.

Whether it was providing education or a plan of action, BreatheND guided tobacco prevention programs across the state.

“It’s always hard to see nine people lose their jobs,” said Melissa Markegard, a Tobacco Prevention Coordinator with Fargo Cass Public Health. “Co–workers who we have worked with for years.”

It was the main agency that was completely dedicated to lowering tobacco use in North Dakota.

“BreatheND was very specific because it was tobacco prevention and that’s all that was done,” said Markegard. “That was the work.”

As of July 1st, the agency has no choice but to close its doors.

“The money is now housed in the Department of Health,” Markegard explained. “So that is now who funds our local tobacco prevention programs rather than BreatheND.”

Local groups can continue to do regular work though the funding of the health department.

Fargo Cass Public Health will be able to keep their two full-time tobacco prevention employees.

“That has not changed,” said Markegard. “That will not change once we reach that July 1st date.”

The local agency focuses on policy changes such as making school zones and apartments smoke free.

“There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure so we work towards those type of policies,” Markegard said.

BreatheND was a resource many people used as an initial step when looking to quit.

Markegard said local resources can help you find what you’re looking for.

“You can just give us a call here at Fargo Cass Public Health and we can be able to answer any questions that you have,” she added.

The North Dakota Department of Health has always had tobacco cessation included in their responsibilities.

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