SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –Ever since the pandemic hit, mental health concerns and suicide rates have been on the rise across the country. It’s why Avera Behavioral Health has adjusted its programs to help more people get access to mental health care faster.

What it now looks like to reach out for help in tonight’s Eye on KELOLAND.

“That first step was the hardest, making the decision to take action,” Susan Kruse said.

It’s something Susan Kruse set her mind to after watching her son repeatedly struggle with symptoms of depression.

“Over the last year or so I noticed fleeting moments that turned into weeklong events, I had a mental commitment that the next time I was going to get some help,” Kruse said.

She had done some research online to try and figure out how best to help him the next time it happened, but in the end, she found one simple solution to take action.

“We went out to the behavioral health urgent care for an assessment, we just showed up, walked in the door,” Kruse said.

“You can drive up, walk up 24/7,” Dr. Matthew Stanley, the Avera Behavioral Health Vice President said.

Avera Behavioral Health opened their urgent care center about a year ago to help people at any level of a mental health concern.

“They will access your severity and try to put you in that right level of care,” Dr. Stanley said.

Dr. Matthew Stanley is a psychiatrist and the Vice President at Avera Behavioral Health. He says it can be very hard for patients or parents to navigate the behavioral health system and not knowing who to call and prevent people from getting help.

“One of the things we have created is a behavioral health navigator to help you navigate those difficulties,” Dr. Stanley said.

Now if you call Avera Behavioral during regular business hours, that navigator will talk with you about what you’re going through and help direct you to the right person.

“One of the challenges in behavioral health is to get the right person to the right care at the right time because there are so many different levels,” Dr. Stanley said.

But they’ve also added many different levels of care to help people access help much faster than before. Before the pandemic, people reaching out for counseling or some other common mental health care could be waiting weeks.

“We have moved that timeline much, much closer to immediate, we’re not immediate yet,” Dr. Stanley said. “But now to get into a counselor appointment, we have a triage service to get in you in in one to two days max. Many of our counselors we can get you an appointment within that 24-hour period.”

They’ve also added an assessment and brief intervention clinic to help people who are already working a primary care doctor get help from a specialist faster.

“Typically get you in for a pharmacological appointment within one to two days,” Dr. Stanley said.

“We got connected to a provider to prescribe medication, got connected to counseling,” Kruse said.

Kruse says after getting her son assessed at the Behavioral Health urgent care, they received the care he needed right away.

“It really was easy, maybe four days later we had an appointment with counseling,” Kruse said.

While care is available much faster, treatment does take time.

“Mental illness is an illness much more like diabetes, once you’re diagnosed it can take a while to get it under control, for many people it will resolve, but not all. There’s a fair portion of people that have chronic depression. We can manage it, we can’t cure it,” Dr. Stanley said.

“Things are going really well today. But its day by day, it’s a lifetime of managing,” Kruse said.

While the journey has required consistent effort and monitoring, Kruse says walking through the doors of the Behavioral Health urgent care clinic was the best step to getting help for her son.

“Having the commitment that we can do better, we can do better than just accepting that, well this is how my life is and there’s nothing that can be done. That’s not true, we know so much more about mental health today,” Kruse said.

“Like any illness, the longer you wait to get treatment, the worst it gets,” Dr. Stanley said. “Don’t wait to seek treatment, there is help available.”

To talk to the mental health navigator for some guidance on where to turn based on what you’re experiencing, call 605-322-5142 on weekdays from 8am to 6pm or visit the behavioral health urgent care center 24/7 to learn more about your options for mental health care.