Capitol News Bureau

SD Lawmakers Looking To Improve Mental Health Services

PIERRE, S.D. - A panel of South Dakota lawmakers decided Monday they need more time to find more ways to improve mental health services.

The committee is still trying to streamline processes for emergency commitments. The Legislature opens the 2019 session January 8.

Lawmakers however unanimously agreed Monday to request funding for expanding 211 telephone service statewide.

Minnehaha, Lincoln, Brookings, Brown and Pennington are among the 17 counties that now have 211 service.

The program helps connect callers with services for preventing suicides and dealing with domestic abuse and child maltreatment.

The program now gets about $500,000 annually from partners. Expanding statewide would cost about $300,000 more.

"I think this is a step we need to take," Rep. Herman Otten said. The Minnehaha County Republican added, "I don't think we should let it slide by."

Rep. Tim Reed, the Republican former mayor of Brookings, said his community had a "terrific response" to the service there.

The lawmakers also want five task forces to look into specific areas of mental health. Their deadline would be the end of 2019.

If the Legislature agrees to the plan, the task forces would cost about $95,000.

One task force would look to get more people needing short-term help into regional mental health facilities at Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen, rather waiting for an opening at the state Human Services Center at Yankton.

Another would recommend ways to deliver more day services to people in their home areas rather than going to the state psychiatric hospital.

A third group would seek more use of telehealth and telemedicine for patients.

A fourth task force would consider ways to shift more long-term nursing-home patients from the state hospital to local settings.

A fifth group would discuss ways to develop more transitional housing and residential care in communities and find more local care-givers.

Sen. Deb Soholt led the study panel. "Now it's important for us to get this right," the Sioux Falls Republican said.

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