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May 18, 2017 06:15 PM

Progress Made By West River Behavioral Health Alliance

Rapid City, SD

A group of West River law enforcement and health care professionals is working to address mental health needs on that side of the state after officials with Rapid City Regional Hospital said it would no longer admit behavioral health patients without acute medical concerns.

Members of the West River Behavioral Health Alliance say they're making progress.

"We had a good collaboration, a good variety of people coming to the table to discuss this issue," Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said.

One possible solution being discussed is a mobile crisis unit.

"Which can go to the sites where patients are decompensating and treat them on-site, before they need to come to medical care," Mark Harlow, Rapid City Regional Hospital, said.

Regional Hospital is currently expanding its emergency department and will also add eight "safe rooms" for behavioral health patients. 

"When a person is in that de-escalation stage from their crisis, when they're potentially at risk to themselves or others, we want to make sure the patient is safe," Harlow said.

Help in addressing the issue is also coming from outside of Rapid City. Right now, the Pennington County Sheriff's office has increased the amount of trips for people in crisis to the state hospital in Yankton.

"Instead of one or two trips a week, we've gone up to four trips a week to transport people out there to just improve that efficiency. What that does is free up space for us in Regional West," Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said.

While their solutions are different, both the hospital and law enforcement agree on one thing.

"The jail is an improper use of space for somebody that has not committed a criminal act and so we are going to do everything we can to work together and make sure that does not occur," Jegeris said.

The group is planning to meet again and continue to discuss progress and plans.

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