Heartview Foundation is one of the most reliable and trusted treatment centers in the state of North Dakota. Since being developed for the Bismarck-Mandan community and beyond in 1964, the organization has flourished and made an astonishing impact on the lives of many across North Dakota.
I spoke with Kurt Snyder, the Executive Director of Heartview Foundation. Together, we discussed Heartview Foundation’s origins, the impact that Heartview Foundation has had on both him and others in the state, what’s next for the organization, and much more.
What is Heartview Foundation?
Heartview Foundation is one of North Dakota’s most trusted drug and alcohol treatment centers. They offer a wide range of services for those from all across the state.
Snyder first began at Heartview Foundation in October 2002 as a counselor. When he was hired, the organization had eight members. When he first got involved, he was a new counselor in the field of addiction but was aware of Heartview Foundation’s rich history.
“I felt that I had a lot of good ideas and something to offer. I felt that I could change the system and find ways to offer more resources. I had been a counselor for a little over five years in 2005, while the people that I was working with had over 20 years of experience in this industry. They were my teachers and mentors. When I applied for the role, I was stepping into an uncomfortable area,” Snyder said.
On January 1, 2005, Snyder began the position of Executive Director. Today, they have more than 130 employees and have served people from every state in the United States, as well as every province in Canada. When reflecting on the journey since then, it’s evident that the organization has grown immensely in the last decade.
“As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we have an excellent board of directors that I am responsible for. I’m responsible for executing the clinical and business practices of the Heartview Foundation and the services that we provide. I’m really proud of the fact that everyone here is swimming in the same direction and believes that what they’re doing is really important” Snyder said.
“The people that we serve need us and they deserve the chance to get back on track. It’s a very rewarding experience and position. It’s been an incredible journey of growth so far. As an organization grows, it’s easy to lose direction, purpose, and culture along the way. I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve always had the sole mission to serve people struggling with drug and alcohol issues. One reason to exist as a nonprofit is to be there for those individuals.
A Q&A with Kurt Snyder, Executive Director of Heartview Foundation
What are the biggest challenges Heartview Foundation currently faces?
#1 The Severity
107,000 people died in 2021 from an overdose in the United States. That’s similar to a jumbo jet crashing with no survivors every single day. So many lives and families are affected and it’s a problem that is continuing to take the lives of our neighbors, friends, and families within our very own community. If you went to every hospital in the state of North Dakota to do a community needs assessment to help them understand what they need to address, the top issues are almost always addiction, mental health, and suicide.
We have waitlists that we deal with in our industry that primarily have to do with workforce levels. What’s a little sad to me is that after years of adding additional staff and services, we haven’t been able to notably bend that curve due to rising demand for our services. We still have waitlists, as I only have so many staff that can be of service.
#3 Individual Barriers
There are always barriers with the individuals we serve that insurance doesn’t pay for. 70% of the people that we serve are in a low-income situation. For us to be able to support somebody that’s coming to us, yet they don’t have food or transportation. We can’t, in good hearts, serve them without solving those other issues as well.
Where are financial donations directed toward within the Heartview Foundation?
#1 Service Fees
We’re a healthcare service. We get reimbursed, just like if you have insurance. There’s a fee for service, just like a doctor’s office visit. That service can pay for all of the staffing, structure, and resources needed to serve those people.
#2 Grant Writing
We write grants to both the state of North Dakota and the federal government. The grants help us extend our services to people that we weren’t able to serve before.
Our fundraising efforts have almost always been about infrastructure growth. We’ve done two capital campaigns in the past 10 years for our second building downtown, as well as another on 23rd Street. Our fundraising is built towards a defined goal and outcome.
Some of our fundraising money has gone specifically to art therapy supplies. It’s a different way to re-engage people in life. Our population is incredibly creative and talented. The art that you see out of those folks as they stop using drugs and alcohol and start to re-engage in life is amazing. Donations are always for how we can support our patients in ways that benefit them the most.
Did You Know?
“When people visit our website to make a donation on our fundraising page, they can actually select how they’d like that donation money to be spent. For example, insurance covers group therapy sessions, but it doesn’t cover general items such as clothes or hygiene products for the homeless.”
For community members that may not be able to donate financially, but still want to give back, what other options are available?
We have a lot of different people that will come to do lectures and activities with our patients. We recently had a former Chief of Probation and Parole come in to teach yoga and breathing techniques. We also work with other agencies that bring in educational material for our patients.
Volunteering has always been somewhat tough for us surrounding the confidentiality aspect of our operation. We have to weigh how we can bring in volunteers while still providing a safe environment for patients. We tend to get a lot of volunteer efforts from those in recovery, which is a whole different game. If someone in recovery wants to tell their story, we allow that person to highlight their success to those still looking at that path.
Could you discuss confidentiality guidelines at Heartview Foundation?
Most people are aware of HIPAA at hospitals and clinics where your health information is protected. We’re regulated by those same laws, but also regulated by a separate law called 42 CFR Part 2, which is like HIPAA on steroids for drug and alcohol treatment. For example, if a law enforcement individual comes to our facility searching for someone, we cannot confirm or deny who’s here.
The only way that we can is if that person committed a crime and was in active pursuit when entering. It allows people the safety and understanding that if they come in for services, we do not share that information with anybody without their express written consent, for which there are very few exceptions to that rule. I think that’s something that our industry does exceptionally well.
Did You Know?
Kurt Snyder earned a Master’s Degree in management from the University of Mary!
What are Heartview Foundation’s goals and ambitions for the future?
We’re currently in the middle of an expansion project in Dickinson, renovating 13,000 square feet on the fourth floor of St. Joseph’s Plaza (formerly St. Joseph’s Hospital). The fourth floor used to be the labor and delivery floor, so it’s unique that we have five employees who were born on that floor. The construction should be done in mid-June, so we’re hopeful that we can open in mid-July. Dickinson has been devastated by a lack of services for behavioral health, so we’re excited about launching a 16-bed residential facility, which we see as a starting point for growing our workforce.
There’s no reason that we can’t grow to have the same level of services in Dickinson that we have in Bismarck. Any given year, we serve roughly 40 of the 53 counties, so we pull from all over the state of North Dakota. We serve a lot of people from Western North Dakota, so it makes perfect sense to us to move closer to where we’re needed most.
What keeps you motivated to do what you do every day at Heartview Foundation?
I’m a person in long-term recovery who found the path to sobriety in June 1983. As I come up on 30 years of sobriety, I’m incredibly grateful for this life that doesn’t include drugs and alcohol each and every day. That was my motivation for becoming a counselor. I stopped counseling to become the executive director, which was a sad decision for me to make, yet I felt like I could help in different ways
Since its establishment in 1964, the team behind Heartview Foundation has treated over 30,000 patients and their families.
I describe addiction as this big boulder that gets thrown into a pond. The water ripples outward and those ripples destroy what people love the most first before affecting everything in their lives, including their communities. However, recovery is the same. It’s a big boulder that goes in that pond but the ripples that go outward are positive
I can be active with the legislature by advocating for our patients, and do everything I can to bring the resources, tools, and skills to our foundation to serve the people that walk through our door. When somebody comes through our door, they’re broken with no hope in their heart or spark in their eye, and their life has been devastated in so many ways.
It’s incredibly amazing to watch those people reclaim their lives and have hope again. You become a part of our community and workforce again and pay taxes. The people that find recovery become incredible citizens that are no longer using high-cost health care and are in and out of our facility or our community’s jails. I know that the work we’re doing is incredibly important and I believe that other people deserve that chance. The work truly is rewarding.