Addressing mental health issues


Mental health issues focusing on the needs of all ages made their way through the 98th legislative session, Rep. Roger Chase of Huron told NAMI-Huron members during a recent meeting.
NAMI-Huron, (National Alliance on Mental Illness) meets the third Wednesday of each month at 3 p.m. at Huron Housing Authority, 255 Iowa Avenue S.E.

The group provides support and education to those with mental illness as well as family members and friends. Everyone is welcome.

Chase said the legislature focused on a number of bills relating to mental health issues for all ages.

HB1079 would provide $2 million to the state Department of Health to provide grants to support mental health and suicide prevention programs. It garnered support in both the House (with a 56-13 vote) and Senate (27-6) and is now waiting for a signature from Gov. Kristi Noem.

“It’s frustrating to have a youth suicide here just a week ago,” Chase said. “The Governor hasn’t signed it yet, but it’s important to legislators to get approved.”

The bill would provide mental health and suicide prevention peer support training, community mental health and suicide prevention data services, and suicide loss response planning and support systems, he said.

House Concurrent Resolution 6002 focuses on continued research into childhood mental health and mental health services available in South Dakota.

“Mental health issues in South Dakota constitute a public health crisis and families and individuals face a broad spectrum of mental health challenges on a daily basis,” Chase said. “Suicide is the leading cause of death for individuals ages 10 to 19 in the state. Preventive medicine, early intervention and family support services are essential in addressing childhood mental health issues.

“There is a critical need for more mental health providers and school counselors in the state,” he added. “Mental health has improved over the last decade, but no group has studied childhood mental health issues specifically. More research is recommended in the area of childhood mental health and ways in which childhood mental health services can be improved and broadened across South Dakota.”

Chase said children with mental health issues have a higher likelihood of entering the juvenile justice system. “Law enforcement officials in South Dakota have seen an increase in offenses for children under 10 years old,” he added.

SB64 is an act relating to the mental health screening program in jails to find resources to help those with severe mental illness within the court system. SB64 passed with a 34-0 vote in the Senate and 69-0 in the House and was signed into law by the governor on March 8.

Chase said SB7 would allow medical professionals to initiate an emergency 24-hour hold for those experiencing mental illness to prevent the individual from harming themselves or others. It would also allow health care professionals to observe and provide emergency treatment. If a petition for emergency commitment is not filed within that 24-hour period, the individual would be released.

Overall, Chase said the Legislative session saw many accomplishments — a $100M cut in sales tax “the largest tax cut in state history,” providing funds for affordable housing, youth mental health and suicide prevention, and 30 bills to improve election integrity.

“We increased funding for nursing homes by more than 10 percent and faithfully implemented Medicaid expansion, following the will of the voters,” he said. “We had good, positive comments dealing with mental health issues. It was a very busy session.”