RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — A medical clinic in Rapid City is trying to convert 3,000-square-feet (279-sq. meters) of its unused space into a mental health center for their 14,000 area patients.
The City Council authorized Mayor Steve Allender and the finance department director to sign an agreement to divert $520,000 from a city fund toward the space in mid-December. The Community Health Center of the Black Hills first had their mental health center funding approved in 2016.
The center’s impending construction could fill a gap in accessible mental health care in western South Dakota, the Rapid City Journal reported . The closest state-run mental health facility is about 350 miles (563 kilometers) away in Yankton.
In November, former state representative Al Scovel said that South Dakota has treated its mentally ill with “abject neglect.”
CEO Tim Trithart said that about 20 percent of the center’s patients have some mental health diagnoses.
The Community Health Center currently offers primary, pediatric, adult and dental care, as well as a pharmacy.
“It’s just another step in terms of us taking care of the whole person,” said Trithart.
Trithart said that funding is always a challenge, but finding staff will be difficult. The center was recently awarded a grant to hire an “integrated mental health social worker” who will work with residents with mental health diagnoses as well as opioid issues.
Trithart will need to find applicants qualified for that position, as well as four other employees to staff the new center.
After the center is built and staffed, Trithart said they’ll be able to better treat their patients, rather than addressing symptoms that may be caused by an underlying mental health issue.
“Our goal is to basically get a little further upstream,” Trithart said.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal