When individuals with mental health concerns enter our county court system or are subject to involuntary commitment, they are required to be evaluated by a Qualified Mental Health Professional or "QMHP".
There are currently no QMHPs in Fall River or adjacent counties.
Fall River County State's Attorney Brian Ahrendt spoke with Garland Goff, Mental Health Chairperson for Fall River and Oglala Lakota Counties and found the previous QMHP for Fall River County had quit over a year ago. After consulting with Goff, it was decided they recommend County seek a new QMHP.
The discussion was tabled for future discussion at the April 2 Commission meeting.
Currently, Individuals are transported to locations as far as Yankton for these required evaluations, a six hour drive from Hot Springs.
Yankton, SD is home to the South Dakota Human Services Center (HSC). HSC is a licensed specialty hospital, providing inpatient psychiatric treatment and adult inpatient substance use disorder treatment. HSC is the state’s only public psychiatric hospital.
In a document obtained from the Fall River County Auditor's office, total county costs for State Institute Care in Yankton topped $13,074 in 2018. This figure includes costs for transportation from Hot Springs to Yankton.
Fall River County's total mental health care cost totaled $54,900 in 2018. Treatment and evaluation in Yankton accounting for nearly 24%.
With safety and budgetary factors in mind, Fall River Country Commission Chairmen, Joe Falkenburg voiced concerns regarding the lack of local QMHPs at the March 5th meeting.
"It's so far for us, clear to the other end of the state. This is such an inefficient system. We need to investigate this," Falkenburg said on March 5th.
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There are a variety of health professionals who qualify to be certified to become a QMHP. A physician or surgeon licensed in South Dakota can take the necessary steps, as well as a variety of health care professionals under South Dakota Statutes 27A-1-7 & 27A-1-3.
Ahrendt, believes there are local health professionals willing to become QMHPs, but the word regarding the county's need for local evaluations and treatment has only recently come to light.
Additionally, South Dakota allows an option for involuntary mental health holds to those posing a public risk. These mental health holds, or involuntary commitments, place individuals with mental illness in jail instead of in special facilities for treatment.
Some critics of South Dakota's statutes on the treatment of the mentally ill say this option potentially violates the individual's constitutional due process rights, or at minimum, worsens an already dire circumstance.
The Hot Springs Star attempted to reach Garland Goff, Mental Health Chairperson for Fall River and Oglala Lakota Counties to comment on the state of local mental health treatment and evaluation. Mr. Goff declined to comment.
Statements regarding the state of mental health evaluations were listed on the agenda for the April 2nd County Commissioner's meeting. As of the writing of this article, no information on the meeting's discussion was available.
Updates will be provided as this story develops.
(Chairman Falkenburg's comments and discussion on Tuesday, March 5th. https://youtu.be/U14xU34Gn5w?t=2612)
(Follow up comments were made at the Fall River County Commissioner's meeting on Tuesday, March 19th by Brian Ahredt, State's Attorney. https://youtu.be/Hc2nrRxj0aI?t=4560)