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Regional, local authorities form mental health alliance

The Rapid City Journal - 3/14/2017

Rapid City Regional Hospital officials are teaming up with local law enforcement to address the need for better mental health services in Western South Dakota.

The new coalition - led by Regional, the Rapid City Police Department, and the Pennington County Sheriff's office - is being called the West River Mental Health Alliance, and will have its first meeting on March 22, according to a statement released by Regional on Monday.

The group is being formed in the wake of two major changes to Regional's mental health policies that came to light early last month.

As of Feb. 1, Regional's Behavioral Health Center on Mountain View Road no longer accepts individuals diagnosed with autism, dementia or Alzheimer's. Also, in the event that its facilities are full, the hospital will no longer accept uninjured mental health patients, and will instead call the Pennington County Sheriff's Office to possibly take them into custody.

Though previously critical of Regional's policy changes, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom commended the hospital on Monday for taking the initiative to form the West River Mental Health Alliance.

"We're going to try to find a positive path forward to get more mental health services in Western South Dakota," Thom said. "This is a beginning, not an end."

The West River Mental Health Alliance currently has three other members besides Thom: Regional Chief Operating Officer Paulette Davidson, Regional President of Medical Services Mark Harlow and Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris.

The group is expected to grow following its inaugural meeting on March 22, to which a select group of community stakeholders will be invited.

 
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