Sioux Falls, South Dakota (Dakota News Now) – South Dakota legislators passed a bill that would set aside $20 million in state funds for scholarships to help those entering the state’s behavioral health field. I am proposing.
Rep. Taylor Lefeld (R-Sioux Falls) told Dakota News Now that House Bill 1044 would allow more mental health therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, and school-licensed counselors. He said it addresses an important need for
If the bill is passed, all college students at South Dakota institutions will be able to apply for scholarships. But there are pitfalls. Each recipient must be employed in a behavioral health profession in South Dakota after completing their studies. And you have to stay in the state, in the industry, for at least as many years as you received the funding.
According to Rehfeldt, the HB 1044 has a lot of details to type. But in its early stages, he passed Congress’ Juvenile Justice Committee unanimously 13-0 last October.
“There are a lot of calls for funding[in Congress]this year, and there are a lot of important issues that need to be addressed,” said Rehfeldt. “But I’m going to do my best to stand for it. The future of our state and enabling future workforces by not just taking care of our people, but taking care of our citizens and our state.” I think it’s very important for our ability to do that.”
Thomas Otten, Deputy Director of Avera Behavioral Health Hospital, said the need for behavioral health has increased over the past three years as the Covid-19 pandemic has created additional stressors and more people are queuing for treatment. He added that sex had “increased significantly”. Therapists—hence the growing demand.
And there is the not uncommon double whammy of a reduced supply of available specialists.
“Almost every industry talks about labor shortages, and in the world of behavioral health, this is definitely true,” said Otten.
Otten, who oversees a staff of about 700, said Avera has had a wide variety of mental health jobs open for more than a year, from psychiatric nurses to licensed professional counselors to addiction counselors. says there is. Especially an addiction counselor.
In South Dakota, it’s not uncommon for people of all ages to wait three to four weeks before they can reach out to or make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional, Rehfeldt said.
“Waiting that long can feel like a year,” said Rehfeldt. And the longer the patient waits, the longer the mental demons linger and can affect not only the patient, but those around them, their job performance, and their ability to function in normal society. include an increased likelihood of committing a crime or attempting suicide.
According to Mental Health in America (MHA), 1 in 5 Americans have a mental health problem and 1 in 10 young people experience depression or anxiety.
Rehfeldt said HB 1044 would be a huge boost for struggling humans of all ages, especially the most troubled children.
“When someone enters the juvenile justice system, more than 90 percent have had an adverse childhood experience,” Rehfeldt said. If you don’t, you’re less likely to heal from those problems,” Rehfeldt said.
In some cases, it may take five to six weeks for a licensed psychologist to diagnose a mental health problem, and it may take even longer for a young person to receive counseling. This only increases the likelihood that the behavioral problem will persist and worsen.
Otten confirmed that South Dakota’s juvenile justice system is “backed up” and behavioral health services are largely unavailable in some juvenile detention centers. He said the state is working hard to fix it.
But the lack of behavioral professionals affects all children, Rehfedlt and Otten said.
“I’ve spoken to various school administrators in South Dakota and they’ll tell you that today is very different than it was five years ago,” says Otten.
What is the biggest difference?
“Teachers struggle with materials because they have to deal with behavioral and mental health issues, which is not what teachers should do,” says Rehfeldt. “It doesn’t work well when there are distractions.”
And that reality for teachers has pushed some out of the profession, leaving a labor shortage as well. said.
That’s why Rehfeldt wants to give South Dakota college students, from technical school freshmen to Ph.D. students, state money to stay and work in the field in South Dakota. From those training to become licensed mental health counselors in schools to privately practicing psychologists and psychiatrists.
One private psychologist in Sioux Falls, who requested anonymity, said there are actually quite a few therapists in the metropolitan area who practice privately or on their own for smaller firms like hers. said.
“I can bring someone tomorrow,” she said.
But Otten said he needed a variety of positions, and behavioral health professionals with whom we spoke with Reefeld said there was a shortage of professional help across the state, especially in rural areas. Perhaps giving college students an economic reason to stay in South Dakota will change things.
His message to them—
“Not all jobs are available. Literally every day, there is an opportunity to save and change lives,” Otten said.
“It’s a welcome addition to the behavioral health field that we can do our best and stay the brightest.”
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