Rapid City Group Seeking Solutions For Mental Health Crisis West River

May 17, 2017

Earlier this year Rapid City Regional Hospital announced they’d no longer accept patients suffering from mental illness when they’re at capacity.

Instead, they would go to jail.

That’s causing the hospital, Pennington County Sheriff’s office and Rapid City police department, among various other organizations, to come up with other solutions to tackle the issue.

The West River Behavioral Health Alliance held its second meeting Wednesday to discuss what options are on the table.

Paulette Davidson is the Regional Health Chief Operating Officer. She says many patients suffer from psychosis, substance abuse, severe autism and progressive dementia.

She says the hospital is expanding the size of its emergency department, which she says sees roughly 60,000 patients a year.

“That space will be finished within the next two years," Davidson says. "Within that space we are designing some safe rooms, so when we do have individuals who need to—who are suffering from some kind of behavorial health need, we have placed to keep them, deescalate their situation, before we determine what their next level of care is.”

Davidson says the remodeled facility will include eight safe rooms.

Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris says state law allows those with mental health problems to end up in jail.

“Our state statue allows jail to be utilized for mental health, temporary holding. That’s just inappropriate," Jegeris says. "That’s not morally or ethically appropriate. I believe everyone in the room here today agrees with that. I think that we need to make change and I think that we will be able to develop the energy hopefully to encourage the legislature to take that off the books as an option.”

Officials with the West River Behavioral Health Alliance say they’re exploring a mobile crisis unit to deescalate issues that arise around Rapid City and West River area.