SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The City of Sioux Falls is hoping to give more people access to mental health help through the Operation Hope Fund. It’s a fund that has been primarily used for people at The Link. Now, its reach is expanding.

For many people, finding help for mental health issues or substance abuse can seem daunting due to the price tag. Operation Hope wants to break down that financial barrier.

“Operation Hope is changing the trajectory of lives forever. It matters when we break down stigma. It matters when we build world-class facilities to help treat these diseases. And it matters when our community breaks down barriers for all who struggle with mental health and addiction,” Thomas Otten with Avera Behavioral Health said.

Using funds from the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Sioux Falls allocated $500,000 for Operation Hope. Until recently, it has primarily been used by people at The Link.

“So things like short term or transitional housing, transportation, or even co-pays and deductibles to people outside of The Link,” Alicia Collura, Chief of Clinical Health Services for the City of Sioux Falls, said.

In January, Operation Hope began partnering with the Helpine Center — allowing the organization to offer funding to people who call the 988 hotline.

“When we offer that resource to people, the sense of relief and gratitude that we hear over the phone is just absolutely amazing because they honestly felt like they weren’t going to be able to receive any type of support or any type of help,” Janet Kittams, CEO of the Helpline Center said.

The goal is to give each individual $500 per year for support. That can be used for transportation or the first visit with a health care professional.

“We started with $500 thousand, it’s my understanding we’re at about $300 thousand. That excites me. I think the plan for this money is to see how fast we can spend it because that means people that need it are using it,” Sioux Falls City Councilor Marshall Selberg said.

If you are struggling with mental health or substance abuse and would like to learn more about Operation Hope funding, call the 988 Helpline Center hotline.

And if you’d like to donate to the Operation Hope funds visit the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation website.