First responders will get some S.D. funding

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A public hearing drew no comments Wednesday on proposed rules for South Dakota’s new program that will offer funding for mental-health training of first responders.

The Legislature established the Heroes Wellness grants earlier this year. The program is administered by the office of the state attorney general.

Hearing officer Kelly Marnette said written comments will be accepted through November 13.

They can be mailed to South Dakota Attorney General, 1302 E. Highway 14, Suite 1, Pierre, SD 57401, or emailed to People also can log onto the internet site and look under the Attorney General tab.

The legislation’s prime sponsor, Representative Rhonda Milstead, said training runs about $1,000 per person. She is married to Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead.

Rep. Milstead and others who testified March 3 to the Senate Committee on Appropriations said people who receive training can in turn train others in their communities on how to provide peer support and work through critical-incident stress.

Lawmakers appropriated $50,000 to cover two sets of classes and administrative expenses this year. They also invested $200,000 at the South Dakota Community Foundation so that more first responders can be trained from the interest earned.

The legislation originally called for the program to be administered through the state Department of Public Safety. That was changed to the attorney general’s office.

Milstead praised Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg and members of his staff Wednesday. “You stepped up to the plate and said you would do it,” she said, noting that first responders are “eagerly” waiting. “And just get ready to get bombarded with applications.”

Replied Ravnsborg, “We’re happy to help.”

One of the proposed rules says, “All applications for a Heroes Wellness Grant shall be submitted electronically though the Attorney General’s website between January 1 and March 1 of each calendar year.”

No one at the Capitol spoke against the legislation during committee hearings. The Senate approved the final version 34-0 and the House of Representatives backed it 64-0.

During the March 3 Senate hearing, supporters included Maynard Konechne (kuh-netch-nee) of Kimball for the South Dakota Emergency Medical Services Association. “Our first responders can never say no,” he said.

Staci Ackerman of Eureka, speaking for the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association, said, “We see this as a force multiplier.” A trainee can go back and train the locals, she said. Brian Burge (birj) from the Beresford fire department added, “It’s a little bit of seed money to propagate that knowledge base through the entire system.”

Milstead said her hope is that other groups add to the $200,000 investment.

Senator Reynold Nesiba praised the project. “I think they found a really thrifty way for us to address this issue and I’m thankful for that,” he said.

Added Senator Jack Kolbeck, “I think this is great for the state of South Dakota.”  

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