Kathryn Helgaas Burgum is a North Dakota native, born and raised in Jamestown. The second-youngest of four children, Kathryn held her first job at the family John Deere business and graduated with honors from Jamestown High School. Kathryn went on to graduate from Arizona State University with an undergraduate degree in retail business, and later received her MBA from the University of North Texas.
Throughout her life, Kathryn has donated her time and leadership to many charitable endeavors, including: at-risk women and children, animal welfare, visionary artists and the arts, and addiction and recovery. As the First Lady of North Dakota, she has made it her mission to end the shame and stigma of the disease of addiction and empower more people to find recovery.
Kathryn’s leadership is grounded in personal experience. In long-term recovery for 16 years, she uses her platform as First Lady to identify recovery solutions and collaborate with the leaders who will bring change to North Dakota communities. The first step in this change is normalizing the conversation and ending the shame and stigma around addiction through storytelling. Kathryn courageously shares her story of addiction and recovery to encourage more people to share their experiences, reach out for help, and connect to vital resources.
As First Lady, Kathryn actively supports the Office of Recovery Reinvented as chair of the Advisory Council, which was formed by Governor Burgum on January 9, 2018. Recovery Reinvented is an ongoing series of events and initiatives which unite citizens, advocates, and stakeholders to eliminate stigma and find solutions for people affected by addiction in North Dakota. These solutions are found through proven prevention, treatment and recovery approaches.
More than 23 million people struggle from the disease of addiction in America, with 72,000 people dying from a drug overdose in 2017 alone. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable with proper care. Addiction is rising across our country, and is of particular importance in North Dakota, where alcohol and drug use is the number one social issue.
Our approach, education, and thought about addiction are continually being reinvented in North Dakota. Increased access to life-saving medicine is already taking effect. At the inaugural Recovery Reinvented event in Bismarck in September 2017, the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone was handed out to attendees. Within days of the event, parents who had attended the event used this naloxone, saving their son’s life. The progress we’re making is saving lives and providing individuals more opportunities to connect to treatment services and find recovery.
Kathryn’s work has benefitted more than just North Dakota. Recognition of her leadership and passion has enabled her to partner with advocates, experts in the field, and stakeholders nation-wide, such as the White House, Faces and Voices of Recovery, the Addiction Policy Forum, and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, where she serves on the board of trustees.
To learn more about the First Lady’s platform and initiatives, visit https://recoveryreinvented.com/
You can view the First Lady’s TED Talk here.