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County more than doubles number of addiction treatment beds
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County more than doubles number of addiction treatment beds

County more than doubles number of addiction treatment beds

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Pennington County will soon have more than twice the number of beds for people needing intensive inpatient drug and alcohol treatment. 

On Monday, patients at a facility with 28 beds on North LaCrosse Street will move into the new 64-bed residential treatment center at the Care Campus in downtown Rapid City.

Gov. Kristi Noem and local officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the new center, which also marks the completion of the Care Campus, home to the county's addiction, mental health, economic assistance, transitional housing and veterans services. The campus recently celebrated the fact that it had more than 24,000 admissions in its first year.

The expanded inpatient center "is a real win for the community,"  Deanna Nolan, clinical director for addiction services at the Care Campus, told the Journal. "We've had such limited resources and this really opens up the treatment programming options for those folks that maybe wouldn't have gotten it before."

Noem said she was recently at a methamphetamine conference in Aberdeen where local leaders requested a facility like the Care Campus.

"This center right here is a testimony to the rest of the state on what can be possible in their communities as well," she said. "The fact that they don't just address addiction in your body — but the mental health needs, and also the spirit as well — will make sure that they can go back to their families, back to their communities and be healed and successful in their lives."

The inpatient center, funded with $2.2 million from an anonymous donor, occupies half of the second floor of the Care Campus at 321 Kansas City Street. It's divided into two sections for men and women and has bedrooms that house four people with two bunk beds, two desks and four dressers. Each side also has two living room areas with TVs, a kitchenette, laundry room and an area for staff to work. The men and women will take turns using the shared gym, dining room and fenced outdoor area. 

Patients will do their own laundry but will be served food cooked by inmates and contract workers at the Pennington County Jail. 

Nolan said there's "absolutely" a demand for more inpatient beds, especially for people needing meth treatment. She said patients stay at the inpatient center for six weeks to six months where they undergo individual and group counseling. 

At first, Nolan said, most patients can't leave the facility "because the risk of relapse is so great."

But once they learn skills, they're able to leave part of the day for work, volunteering or spending time with friends and family.

"You can learn the skills all day long, but if you're not out here practicing them in the real world, then they don't do a whole lot of good," she said.

Nolan said about 70 percent of people complete the program but it doesn't track relapse or criminal recidivism rates after that. She said the program is housed under the Pennington County Sheriff's Office, run by county staff and funded through the Department of Social Services' Division of Behavioral Health.

Sheriff Kevin Thom said that while people can voluntarily ask to join the program, most are connected with it through the criminal justice system, whether they're ordered to attend as an alternative to jail, or as part of probation or the drug diversion program. Completing treatment could sometimes mean getting one's charges dropped or reduced. 

"The idea is to get people the addiction services they need, to stop churning through the criminal justice system," he said. 

Noem also spoke of the need for treatment alternatives to incarceration. 

"Obviously, a huge percentage of our population that's in our criminal justice system is there because of addiction or illegal drug use," she said.

Twenty-eight percent of men and 64 percent of women in South Dakota prisons are incarcerated for drugs — rates higher than the national average — according to statistics from the Department of Corrections.

"Oftentimes while they're in our prisons and our jails, they're not getting the kind of addiction treatment that they need. So I would love to see a way that we can be much more efficient and help people better — and that's by giving them addiction treatment, not necessarily putting them in prison," she said.

Noem said she's not sure if the former juvenile detention campus in Custer repossessed by the state after a bounced check can be used for a state treatment center. "Millions and millions of dollars in upgrades" are needed to the campus' infrastructure and electrical and sewer systems, so its unclear if the state could find money for that after it spent so much this year on flooding and other natural disasters, she said. 

But she said she's looking forward to the recommendations of a legislative summer study on the intersection of drugs and the criminal justice system.

"I'm not 100-percent opposed to it or learning new information" about getting rid of the felony ingestion law, Noem said. South Dakota is the only state to make ingesting drugs a felony.

Noem said she's also focused on hiring more state troopers and investigators to stop drug trafficking and is looking forward to a new state-run meth addiction education campaign set to launch next month. 

She said while such campaigns have been negative in the past, this one will be positive and "designed to bring hope to folks" by sharing resources and stories of recovery. 

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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