LifeScape to Build New Facilities at USD Discovery District

Jan 16, 2020

LifeScape CEO Steve Watkins says much has changed in the world of disability healthcare since ground broke for the existing LifeScape hospital in 1949. He says the new facilities at the USD Discovery District will carry LifeScape into the next century.
Credit Jackie Hendry

LifeScape—a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities—is leasing more than 30 acres from the USD Discovery District in Sioux Falls. The site will serve as LifeScape’s new hospital, school and rehab facility.

USD and LifeScape leaders expect the partnership to advance research and fill workforce needs in disability care.

CEO Steve Watkins points to a picture of children with polio breaking ground for the current LifeScape hospital back in 1948. He says specialized care isn’t the only thing that’s changed since then.

“As we’ve seen autism grow from one in 150 to one in 59 in just about five years, and then we see disabilities coming in at one in six children now," says Watkins. "Add to that along with the population boom particularly of Sioux Falls. In 1948, there were less than 50,000 people in Sioux Falls.”

Watkins says most LifeScape residents have three separate diagnoses ranging from physical disabilities to developmental and behavioral difficulties, which requires complex approaches to care. He adds there’s a waitlist for autism therapy but he can’t hire enough therapists.

“We’ve looked for a year with two national firms, and they’ve provided one,” he explains.

But Watkins hopes putting the new LifeScape facilities within walking distance of healthcare classes will mean he can recruit therapists and other specialized caregivers locally.

University of South Dakota Dean of Health Sciences Haifa Samra agrees, and says the announcement also means opportunities for research partnerships and breakthroughs in care.

“It’s a win win, and the greatest winner is gonna be the adults and children with disabilities, and the community, and the citizens of South Dakota.”

The new facilities will replace LifeScape’s current locations on 26th and 18th Streets in Sioux Falls.

The total cost is expected to reach $62 million.

Monument Health supports Education and Healthcare reporting on SDPB.