Nearly $117,000 has been awarded to Pennington County Health and Human Services for a study designed to examine behavioral health care in western South Dakota.
The grant was awarded by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. According to a press release, the county will now be able work with the National Council for Behavioral Health to assess the regional behavioral health system and suggest changes.
“We’re proud to support an alliance that is working to improve behavioral health care in rural America,” Walter Panzirer, a trustee with the Helmsley Charity Trust, said in the news release.
Earlier this year, there was some drama surrounding Pennington County's bid to apply for the grant.
On Aug. 7, Pennington County commissioners voted 3-2 against applying for the grant. The opponents acknowledged that western South Dakota needs more mental health resources but felt the burden to provide additional services should fall on the state rather than Pennington County.
The commission, however, reconsidered the matter at a subsequent meeting after testimony from law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and others pointed out that the grant would allow the county to collect data and only identify needs and possible solutions.
The commission then voted 3-2 to apply for the grant. Commissioner Ron Buskerud changed his vote joining Commissioners Lloyd LaCroix and Deb Hadcock who previously supported the measure. Commissioners George Ferebee and Mark DiSanto voted against it at both meetings.
As part of the grant, the assessment and recommendations will be presented in a final report to the West River Behavioral Health Alliance, which consists of representatives from 32 organizations, including law enforcement, hospitals, community mental health providers and organizations, local nonprofit agencies, and state agencies.
“When you sit around a table with 32 agencies, everybody has their own ideas and opinions,” Pennington County Health and Human Services Director Barry Tice said in the release. “We’ll bring in these experts from outside of Rapid City who come in with an unbiased opinion. They will collect data from all of these entities, which is a major undertaking, and have the ability to look at the bigger picture. Then they will determine what the next steps are for western South Dakota.”