Health | National

Native Sun News Today: City debates options for mental health services

Some of the former facilities of National American University are being considered for a new center to treat the area’s mentally ill. Photo by Andrea Trujillo

Decriminalizing the mentally ill
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Today Managing Editor

RAPID CITY – South Dakota’s criminalizing of mentally ill patients has become a topic of discussion in Rapid City with Rapid City Regional Hospital’s recent announcement they would no longer accept some mentally ill patients, instead the Pennington County Sherriff’s Department would be called and the patient could be transferred to jail.

According to a February 19 article in the Rapid City Journal by Chris Huber, RCRH’s decision is partially based on a recent finding by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit hospital accreditation service that Regional Behavioral Health Center’s use of seclusion was 300 times higher than the national average and their use of restraints was six times higher.

This led to Regional Health’s recent policy changes wherein they announced they would no longer accept patients with “neurodevelopmental/cognitive disorders” such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and autism spectrum disorders as a quick solution to The Joint Commission’s findings.

However Psychologist Dr. Gilbert Gonzales, who visited Rapid City at the invitation of Collective Impact on February 2 to share what has become a national model, The Haven For Hope Facility in San Antonio, Texas, formulates a direct correlation between incarceration and harm to the mentally ill.

“The one rule in health care that guides us all is ‘do no harm,’” Gonzalez said. “If that is our guiding line, ‘do no harm,’ we just violated it by incarcerating.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recognizes that seclusion or restraint re-traumatizes patients and does more harm, and seeks to actively resist trauma inducing practices.

SAMHSA recommends educating those who deal with mentally ill patients in the use of “Known Trauma-Specific Interventions” instead.

Some well-known trauma-specific interventions they list include: Addiction and Trauma Recovery Integration Model (ATRIUM), Essence of Being Real, Risking Connection®, Sanctuary Model®, Seeking Safety, Trauma, Addiction, Mental Health, and Recovery (TAMAR), Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET), Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model (TREM and M-TREM).

Studies also find that incarceration of mentally ill patients is by far the most traumatizing method of treatment and the least recommended. However studies also find that two/thirds of mentally ill patients end up in correctional facilities rather than effectual treatment centers.

Gonzalez and a team of advisors and community stakeholders also found a direct correlation between homelessness and mental illness which was the catalyst for change in the San Antonio metro area and construction of the Haven For Hope Model.

At the February 2 presentation by Gonzalez was the Executive Director of the Cornerstone Rescue Mission in Rapid City, Lysa Allison who attended because she “is interested in learning how to do things differently and better.”

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Decriminalizing the mentally ill

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at

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