Regional Health amends behavioral health center care options

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After studying its available care options, Regional Health announced changes to its Behavioral Health Center in Rapid City.

The center will no longer admit patients with Alzheimer's, dementia and autism, realizing the group therapy facility doesn't fit the needs of those patients. That group therapy style has resulted in injuries to those patients, physicians and even other patients in the same rooms.

Sandy Burns, president of the Autism Society of the Black Hills, said the announcement came as a surprise, but after touring the facility, she understands the move.

"Right now, what they have are semi-private rooms, and for a child with autism that maybe is having an episode where they're exhibiting extreme behavior, they need to be by themselves,” Burns said. “And most autistic kids would prefer to be by themselves in a quiet place, not be disturbed by others, and that's just not a situation that they can get here."

The change in policy impacts west-river families, as there aren't really any options for one-on-one care on this side of the Missouri River. East of the river, two state-run hospitals in Yankton and Redfield are the closest options to serve these patients.

"Going forward, we're trying to come up with solutions in our community. We need facilities on this side of the state,” said Mark Garry, a psychiatrist at Regional Health. “We have a lot of facilities on the eastern side of the state. We don't have enough on this side of the state. We recognize that's an issue. We want to bring people together to partner to come look at other options."

Garry said Regional Health will continue to help in the process for finding a new solution.

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