Pennington County Commissioners voted 3-2 against authorizing the Pennington County Department of Health and Human Services to submit a grant proposal to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust Tuesday morning, reports the Rapid City Journal. The proposal requested monetary support for a study of behavioral and mental health issues and care systems in western South Dakota.
Commissioners voted 3-2 against the proposed submission, brought to the Commission by Director of Pennington County Health and Human Services Barry Tice. Commissioners Ron Buskerud, George Ferebee, and Mark DiSanto voted against the submission, while Board chairman Lloyd Lacroix and commissioner Deb Hadcock voted in favor. Their reasoning was that studying mental health issues was a state rather than a county issue. Commissioner Buskerud also expressed concern over whether recommendations from such a study could cause large future expenses for the county.
The proposal, if approved, would have granted funds to support a study on mental health issues in western South Dakota. The study would also have assessed the current behavioral health system and collected data on behavioral and mental health needs in the region. The proposed study would cost an estimated $118,000, according to Tice, which would have been covered by the Helmsley Charitable Trust if submitted and approved.
Eric Whitcher, the director of the Pennington County Public Defender’s Office, argued in favor of submitting the proposal in front of the Commission on August 7th. Whitcher spoke about how the issues of behavioral and mental health were already affecting taxpayers in the county, as people in the court system who are deemed incompetent are held in county jail during the often months-long wait before being admitted to the Human Services Center in Yankton. The Yankton facility is currently South Dakota’s only state-run inpatient mental health hospital.
Pennington County is currently working on remodeling the National American University building on Kansas City Street into a new behavioral health service building now known as the Care Campus (Renewing Mind, Body, and Spirit). Formerly known as the Restoration Center, this building will house Detox, Safe Solutions, Crisis Care Center and Health and Human Services under one roof when doors open in late September, 2018. The main goal of this project is to reduce the county’s incarceration rate. Renovations will cost approximately $14 million dollars, and the center is expected to open in September of 2018.
Chairman Lacroix and Commissioner Hadcock argued in favor of the submission, as more behavioral and mental health data is needed now, and this study could provide important information for the state Legislature and other bodies to help justify increased funding for mental health issues in western South Dakota.
Commissioner DiSanto suggested taking the concept of the study to the state legislature, as he and Commissioner Ferebee argued that as long as counties tackle these issues, the state Legislature will continue avoiding them.
Find the minutes from the August 7th Pennington County Commission Meeting here.
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