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Veterans hospital found in violation of VA mental healthcare standards


A recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs says one South Dakota VA hospital is out of compliance with mental health regulations. With many veterans suffering from serious mental health challenges, helping them reach services is crucial.

The report from the VA’s office of inspector general found inadequacies in the mental healthcare for veterans in East River.

A random, unannounced inspection at the Sioux Falls Royal C. Johnson Veteran’s Hospital late last month showed a lack of required patient screenings and mental health evaluations.

The VA requires the completion of a suicide risk evaluation for patients screening positive for serious mental health issues.

The report showed assessments for at-risk veterans weren’t happening as required. Under VA policy, a veteran deemed “at-risk” should receive a suicide risk assessment within the same calendar day and notification to the staff prevention team.

The inspector general’s compliance check assessed 50 randomly selected employees and managers. They were interviewed and files about 50 random veterans who screened positive for mental health risks were cross-referenced.

The report estimates more than one-quarter of veterans at the hospital did not receive their mandated same-day screenings – that's far above the VA’s ten percent grace rule. In turn, the report said the facility poses a possible patient safety risk if suicidal thoughts and behaviors are going unnoticed and untreated.

Following the inspection and report, the hospital has been in compliance with VA regulations, and the mental health screening rate has reached 100%.

The Sioux Falls VA hospital taillies nearly 300,000 appointments each year.

A link to the report can be found here.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture