National League of Cities brings national attention, feedback for local Rapid City services


Downtown Rapid City7RAPID CITY, S.D.– After a presentation at the National League of Cities conference, Rapid City’s work in targeting issues like mental health was put on full display to cities across the nation. Mayor Steve Allender spoke on the presentation and his interactions with other city leaders.

What he spoke about

In the presentation, he spoke on improving mental health care, along with trends in resolving issues related to rising criminal activity. “There is a common theme nationwide of rising crime, an increase in mental health episodes and also alternative responses to those,” he explains. “And we are slowly running out of police officers for all of these types of calls.”

How Rapid City is working to resolve these issues

In Rapid City, organizations such as OneHeart and Journey On utilize training and skills related to assisting people with mental health issues or those experiencing crises such as homelessness. For example, Journey On fielded almost 2,000 non-emergency service calls in the first three months of the year. And in a recent survey by residents using their services, OneHeart’s staff has been a key part of helping people as they move out of “crises mode.”

What the reaction was like from other mayors across the nation

According to Mayor Allender, he was pleasantly surprised to receive positive feedback and comments on the services offered for the programs in the city. He is even working with some to help provide further information on how to bring the programs across the nation and get them to work in different communities.

“There are many communities wanting to do that or bolster their services as well,” he added. “So it makes me feel good. Makes me feel like we’re on the right track and we’re doing something right and that it’s in line with what many other communities are doing also.”

What is next for Rapid City after the conference?

Even with organizations already in place throughout the area, he is looking to continue the human services and wellness aspect of work needed to improve the community. He understands that law enforcement can only do so much for people struggling with mental health issues, but still sees them playing a role in finding a solution

And so we’re discussing very shortly here bringing those resources out of the police umbrella and standing up our own focused area of community health and wellness. So that would be, you know, to accomplish alternative response but also to try to provide more qualified help to those people needing help.”

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