SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There is no long-term plan to close the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC) in Redfield, the state’s Human Services secretary said at a legislative committee meeting Wednesday.
“The individuals that are there need that care,” DHS secretary Shawnie Rechtenbaugh told the Joint Committee on Appropriations. “There is no other place in South Dakota (that provides that care).”
The state did try at least once to have additional sites to provide short-term residential care for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It is designated as an intermediate care center.
Rechtenbaugh said the DHS now plans to return the $20 million designated by the Legislature in 2020 to fund two private sites to provide intermediate care.
“There is still a need but we can’t do it at this point,” Rechtenbaugh said of developing other private sites.
DHS had been making plans with Black Hills Works, a non-profit in Rapid City that helps adults with disabilities, she said, but staffing shortages and difficulty in securing land for a new site stopped the process. DHS continues to talk with Black Hills Works, Rechtenbaugh said.
Staffing shortages have been a challenge for the Redfield facility for several years.
In 2016, KELOLAND News reported about staffing shortages and several former and a current employee who said they suffered injuries on the job. On Jan. 19, 2019, KELOLAND reported staffing shortages still existed and that the union had filed a complaint of unfair labor practices with the state Department of Labor and Regulation.
A right-sizing plan was started several years ago to better address staffing needs, DHS officials said. According to Rechtenbaugh, the staff in Redfield is dedicated and is proud of the work and the center. But, she said, “If we could get to the point where we don’t have to pay overtime, that would be great.”
Overtime costs have decreased over the past four years, said Kevin Kohler, the outgoing chief executive officer for the DHS.
The majority of the overtime is at the SDDC, Kohler said. The DHS had $1.3 million to $1.5 million in overtime four to five years ago, he said.
In FY2022 the overtime was $711,465. It was $584,430 in FY2021.
Rechtenbaugh said right-sizing includes evaluating staff needs when a supervisor or similar person leaves. The need for direct support workers continues as the SDDC has 75 to 80 residents.
The purpose of the SDDC has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. The facility housed as many as 1,200 residents in the 1960s.
As society shifted toward providing more community-based services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the SDDC’s population declined.
Rechtenbaugh said although the SDDC is not geared toward life-long stays, there are some residents in their 60s, 70s and 80s who have been in Redfield their entire lives or for most of their lives. Those residents will likely continue to stay because discharging them to a community or different setting would be too much of an adjustment, she said.
The SDDC now focuses on short-term stays that help individuals in need of certain skills or attention. Once the goals are achieved, the individual can leave Redfield for a community-based setting.
Several legislators on the committee had questions about the number of residents served, the long term plan, and the condition of facilities in Redfield.
Rep. Tony Venhuizen, R-Sioux Falls, asked about the buildings and acres bought by the city of Redfield.
Rechtenbaugh said the buildings bought by the city are still there. The city bought more than 100 acres.
Venhuizen also asked about the condition of the buildings.
“Our residential services, those buildings are in fairly decent shape,” Rechtenbaugh said.
Some other buildings are used for cold storage, she said.
Sen. Bryan Breitling, R-Miller, asked about staffing and if the SDDC used traveling staff.
Rechtenbaugh said the DHS does not use traveling staff at the SDDC. The DHS continues to look at staffing and does not expect any big increases in population. “We don’t expect to jump from 80 to 100,” she said.
The recommended FY2024 budget for the SDDC is about $25 million with $11.2 million or 45% in the costs for residential living. The state’s portion of that budget is $9.5 million with the federal portion at $14.4 million. Another $857,224 is classified as other.