SIOUX FALLS, S.D (KELO) — Amendment D passed last November, granting thousands of South Dakotans access to Medicaid.

Thursday, a ceremony was held at Falls Community Health Center in Downtown Sioux Falls to speak more about the expansion.

It was a celebratory day at Falls Falls Community Health, as Medicaid expansion early enrollment kicks off ahead of July 1.

“This is going to be a lifeline to a lot of those services right now that struggled to exist in rural communities. And it’s, it’s going to be a big deal to make them more financially solvent,” said Dr. Dan Johnson, volunteer with American Cancer Society.

Lisa Thompson is one of the 52,000 South Dakota residents now eligible for Medicaid. Something she says she has been looking forward to.

“It’s just like, finally, you know, because I would have needed to at some point had it not passed, I would have needed to move to a different state,” said Lisa Thompson, Medicaid applicant.

Thompson moved to Mitchell from Minnesota in 2021. But when she arrived, she realized her Medicaid coverage would not transfer to South Dakota, leaving her in a Medicaid Gap.

“I was certainly struggling because I’ve, you know, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimotos, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and some other things too,” Thompson said.

She was paying hundreds of dollars a month for medications and treatments. Her illness got so bad, she was unable to continue working.

“There’s no way it would be sustainable to just doing this. Kind of falling apart thing day after day, month after month, and pretty soon years,” Thompson said.

Which is why she says this expansion makes a huge difference not just for her but for people all across South Dakota.

The Chief Medical Officer at Falls Community Health says a single person making less than $20,000 or a family of four making less than $41,000 will be eligible to apply for Medicaid coverage starting in July.

At the state level, the Department of Social Services has been planning to hire 68 new full-time positions to help handle Medicaid expansion.