This article was originally published in Minot Daily News.

FARGO – Strengthen ND has announced a partnership with the Human Flourishing Lab to study and promote hope across North Dakota.

“It is a tremendous opportunity to work alongside subject-matter experts and North Dakotans to spur greater learnings about our communities, culture and possibilities,” said Megan Langley, executive director of Strengthen ND.

She explained North Dakota, like many rural states, has experienced steady and substantial increases in mental illness and substance use disorders over the past decade. Deaths attributable to suicide, drug overdose and alcoholic liver disease have lowered the state’s life expectancy. In addition, long-term rural outmigration has dissolved the family and social bonds that characterized many communities, while geographic isolation, lack of infrastructure and inequitable access to services create difficulties in addressing these issues.