State Legislators Talk Mental Health

Local News

South Dakota lawmakers are responding to a rising suicide rate. 

They’re trying to figure out how the state could better respond to the growing need for mental health care. 

Tuesday lawmakers held the second meeting for the Access to Mental Health Committee.

State leaders want to make sure every South Dakotan has access to the help they need. 

“We are taking a look at where are all the points that people with mental health issues, and also very much in respect to what the taxpayers pay for, is there enough places and spaces for access for people to serve them well in our state,” Senator Deb Soholt said.

Soholt says state legislators started this committee to figure out how the state will move forward with mental health care.

“We have the lay of the land, the landscape of what’s going on. We’re going to be able to start looking at benchmark best practices that other states might be doing, and then think about how we want to spend our dollars in South Dakota and to serve our people,” Soholt said.

Those working in mental health services hope these meetings can help combat a rising suicide rate.

“I think the entire country is coming to recognize the great need for more attention and better care for this with a variety of mental illnesses. That would cover addictions. that would also address things like the suicide crisis that’s going on across our country,” Dr. Mathew Stanley, an Avera psychiatrist said. 

“We answer a lot of calls regarding people who are in suicidal crisis. I think that immediate assistance and help with that crisis is what they need from us,” Janet Kittams with the Helpline Center said.

Everyone at this table agrees it’s an important conversation.

“I am pleased that we’re being more attentive to these issues and I think we’re working closely together,” Stanley said.

 “We’re finally opening up that space where we’re respectfully looking at the issues people are dealing with,” Soholt said.

“I think any time that we can have a conversation about mental health and mental health services in the state of South Dakota, that’s an important topic to cover. Often times, it’s a topic people don’t like to talk about, so this is really critical, ” Kittams said.

Soholt says this week legislators were also touring mental health centers throughout the state.

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