Our area has experienced at least 29 reported suicides in 2017. That’s more than one suicide every two weeks. The 29th suicide was a 17-year-old boy who was pulled out of Rapid Creek. Horrific — yes and very sad.

These people needed mental health treatment now and shouldn’t have to wait for one of our two buses to be transported each week to Yankton — a 365-mile trip away from our area.

The 29 suicides are a pittance when compared to the suicide numbers on our Native American reservations located in Western South Dakota. Years ago, we had one bus per week traveling to Yankton loaded with mentally ill patients; now we have two buses per week traveling to Yankton Mental Health for treatment. I presume in the not too distant future there will be three buses per week going to Yankton with mentally ill persons for treatment.

When a mentally ill person is put in one of these buses they are shackled for security reasons. This exacerbates their condition not to mention the delay in their treatment. What is wrong with this picture? It is incumbent upon us to help people so they can help themselves.

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I am advised that in some cases a mentally ill person has to be held in the emergency department of our hospital for up to three days before boarding the bus — another delay in receiving appropriate treatment. We end up shackling these people like cattle before treatment is available.

This is not acceptable for West River citizens. This does not represent good health care. The South Dakota mental health care system is abhorrently inadequate and broken and violates West River values. We need a state mental hospital in Western South Dakota — now, not later.

Al Scovel is an attorney from Rapid City.

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