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Avera to open expanded behavioral health wing in Sioux Falls

Avera leaders expected the original behavioral health building in Sioux Falls to have enough patient capacity until at least 2025. They were wrong.

Dr. Matthew Stanley, Vice President of Avera's behavioral health service line, says their units have been full since the center opened in 2006. Since the pandemic, regional mental health needs have grown, especially among young people. He says limited capacity has forced Avera to turn families away.

"Because of suicidal ideation and actions that are so often part of the picture in behavioral health hospitalization, these are families that are fighting for their kids' lives," Stanley says.

The new Helmsley Behavioral Health center is a four-story expansion to Avera's behavioral health center in Sioux Falls. It offers specialized units for young people, including addiction care for youth and partial hospitalization services that allow some patients to go home at night. That's in addition to expanded capacity for adults and a round-the-clock urgent care center for people facing a mental health crisis.

Walter Panzier is a trustee with the Helmsley Charitable Trust, which donated $13million for the new facility. He says it's time to break the taboos surrounding mental health.

"Having a mental health problem is no different that having high cholesterol or asthma or any other type of medical problem," he says.

Avera Behavioral Health Ribbon Cutting
Jackie Hendry
Avera and Helmsley Charitable Trust partners perform a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the new four-story behavioral health expansion in Sioux Falls.

After a ceremonial ribbon cutting, Avera President and CEO Bob Sutton says new patients will guide how the health system addresses future needs.

"Without having urgent care, there's a gap," he explains. "We're filling that gap, but it will create other gaps. And as we're up and running, we're going to see what those gaps are. This isn't the end of our investment in behavioral health. It's just too important."

The facility is expected to open for patients later this month.