Bills to Reduce Acute Mental Health Hospitalizations have Strong Support

Feb 5, 2020

Bills from the Reduce the Overall Use of Acute Mental Health Hospitalizations task force are moving through the legislature with widespread support. The Senate Health and Human Services committee has passed three related bills unanimously within the past week.

Senate Bill 4 allows the Department of Social Services to designate regional facilities that can admit people in a mental health crisis situation—as opposed to spending a night in jail. Senate Bill 5 extends civil liability immunity for qualified mental health professionals in those facilities.

Jeremy Johnson with the Department of Social Services says that protection is important.

“It’s good clarification to provide an appropriate regional facility with the same protections as other facilities that are providing that service," he explains. "This bill ensures that facilities are not deterred from seeking that designation as an appropriate regional facility.”

Another bill, House Bill 1010, clarifies a law that requires two different qualified mental health professionals to assess a person before they are involuntarily committed.

Terry Dosch is the Executive Director of the South Dakota Council of Community Behavioral Health. He says the law regarding testimony before the board of mental health includes a requirement for possible alternatives to being committed.

“It’s very important that the boards get that, so that in the spirit of reducing inpatient or acute mental health hospitalization, that those alternatives can be reviewed by the board and if an alternative is available it can be utilized,” he says.

Senators on the Health and Human Services committee commended members of the summer task force for their work before passing the bills unanimously.

All three bills now await a vote on the Senate floor.