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'Health-care college' concept floated for Rapid City university center
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'Health-care college' concept floated for Rapid City university center


Efforts by state Sen. Jeff Partridge to propose a “health-care college” at the university center in Rapid City and to win a state appropriation for a new Mount Rushmore visitor film were among the legislative proposals revealed Thursday during a public forum in Rapid City.

Partridge, a Rapid City Republican, said he had been thinking about Black Hills State University-Rapid City’s status as an “underutilized asset” when he learned that the Regional Health system, which is based in Rapid City, was short 200 nurses.

“And I said, ‘Wait a second, we’ve got this university center out here. What if we turned that into a health-care college?’” Partridge said. “A complete center for where you could get involved in the health care industry, someway, somehow.”

He said nighttime classes at the location could continue without disruption while much of the daytime focus could be shifted to health-care recruitment and education. He called the concept an idea that is not yet fully formed as a proposal.

Partridge also said he hopes to win a $500,000 appropriation from the Legislature to help fund the creation of a new film for visitors at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. He said the film’s total cost would be $2 million, and the rest of the money would be raised by the Mount Rushmore Society. The current visitor film, which was produced in 1986, is shown every 20 minutes at the memorial.

Partridge was one of six Rapid City Republican legislators who participated Thursday in a forum hosted by the Pennington County Republican Women at the Holiday Inn-Rushmore Plaza. The 2020 legislative session will begin Jan. 14 and run through March at the Capitol in Pierre.

In other highlights from the forum:

  • Rep. Tim Goodwin expressed his support for industrial hemp legalization and said he participated in a legislative summer-study committee that heard testimony from a Kentucky farmer who sold cannabidiol from a 100-acre hemp crop for $14 million to a pharmaceutical company.
  • Rep. Tony Randolph said he wants to do something about “out of control” teenagers and said he is examining the feasibility of converting the former STAR Academy juvenile detention center near Custer back to that purpose, after the state closed the facility, sold it, and then repossessed the campus from a failed buyer.
  • Rep. Michael Diedrich said he hopes to move the state away from over-dependence on the Human Services Center in Yankton for behavioral health care and toward a regional approach; that he plans to introduce legislation strengthening protections against phone scammers; and that he plans to introduce legislation that would allow domestic-violence victims who have court protection orders to escape lease agreements easier, which he said is a law change being sought by some domestic-violence shelter officials.
  • Sen. Helene Duhamel, who was appointed Tuesday to fill a seat vacated by recently resigned Sen. Alan Solano, used the forum as an opportunity to introduce herself to voters as a fifth-generation South Dakotan who was a longtime television journalist but has also been a lifelong Republican, saying, “Do you really think the governor would appoint someone who’s not a Republican?”
  • Rep. Chris Johnson said he will take up an issue that was championed by his predecessor, the late Sean McPherson, and try to restore grants for traumatic brain injury treatment to potentially aid the establishment of a long-term care facility in Rapid City, which could bring South Dakotan TBI patients back from facilities they’ve migrated to in other states.

Contact Seth Tupper at

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