SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A new report shows that thousands of young South Dakota residents who qualify for mental health care from state-funded centers don’t get counseling from the network of regional nonprofits set up to serve them.

A legislative task force found that the South Dakota Council of Mental Health Centers reached 5,010 kids in 2001. After years of population growth, the network saw just 5,005 kids in 2016, the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/2uZMQuR ) reported.

Administrators said the state system receives enough funding to help all kids who come to the centers seeking help, but that reaching out can be difficult due to persistent stigma and the growth of private facilities.

“I’ll never give you an idea that we’re going to be fully happy with the level of service we’re providing,” said Terry Dosch, the council’s executive director. “We’re always going to strive to improve access to the people in the state of South Dakota.”

Dosch and others said private groups and hospitals have stepped up to fill some of the gap. But the council’s flat numbers and the private facilities’ shortage of beds and doctors raises questions about the state’s ability to serve young people who have depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

The task force that identified the state’s adolescent mental health care issue 15 years ago recommended a seven-point plan that includes better coordination among agencies, improved screening in schools and day cares, a public education campaign and more money for counseling and other services.

Amy Iversen-Pollreisz, deputy secretary of the Department of Social Services, said that although there’s little legislative record of those changes, that doesn’t mean there weren’t improvements within state departments that work with children and mental health.

The state’s 2015 Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative started a program called Functional Family Therapy, which allows providers to address outside forces that affect a child’s mental health.

“We’re right on the verge of being able to move in a significantly different direction with those kids,” said Mike Forgy, who heads the state’s community mental health center in Brookings. While progress has been slow, he said, “that’s how any new initiative works.”


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com