The C.O.P.E. program has been with the Boy Scouts since 1981. Locally, Chad Swenson of Fargo was one of the original Scouting Staff to offer these activities to youths. Originally only for Scouts, we in the late Eighties were lucky enough to expand the program to include different groups around the region. By the Nineties, we were able to include groups from adjudicated youth programs. In the early Two Thousand’s, through my involvement in Alcoholics Anonymous, we were able to organize AA trips where they too could participate in various portions of C.O.P.E. activities and methodologies. Since those original small groups, they each have turned into their own entities that have grown into annual events that have seen thousands of people over the years.
In 2019, I was able to work as a lobbyist during the North Dakota legislative session. That work had me listening to and hearing the concerns of the Human Services committees of the House and Senate. Many different concerned parties came to speak about many issues during that session. I took the time to speak with many of those who came to testify on their various subjects. When I brought up and explained the C.O.P.E. program in Minnesota, many said they’d love to bring their students or patients, but that the hours of driving and related costs were prohibitive. Others identified current and past political differences with the Scouting organization as a reason not to participate. The simplest solution I saw was to bring a facility to North Dakota and centralize it in the state to increase access. We also have no connections to the Scouting organization, and their current legal problems nationally. We are creating a hybrid, where with cross-training of already established therapists, that we are able to service groups that have never had access to this methodology before. While based on the Scouts program, its focus at our facility will be on helping people with PTSD and other issues find the tools and skills to enjoy a fruitful life.
The who’s that inspire this is a long list of people who go back decades. Col. Dick Bourne (Rt.) and Bob “Ya Gotta Wanna” Young were critical people for me when I was younger. Bob especially, as a Bail Bondsman, help me see people in an entirely different light. My experiences with him helped frame how I see alcohol and drug dependence, and its impacts on people’s lives. What inspires me is the future, the unseen potential energy becoming kinetic. Even more so with the hope that we can make this accessible to adults and youths across North Dakota.