Improving Mental Health And Combating Drug Use

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Improving Mental Health And Combating Drug Use

One of Governor Noem’s top priorities has been to combat drug use in South Dakota and improve mental health for all South Dakotans, particularly by taking on the meth epidemic across our state. We must focus on expanding prevention programs, cracking down on enforcement, and enhancing rehabilitation options. Investments in mental and behavioral health go hand in hand with these efforts.

Since taking office, Governor Noem has:

  • Issued executive orders expanding flexibility in telehealth so that South Dakotans can access services as quickly as possible – and successfully brought legislation to codify these flexibilities permanently. 
  • Worked with former South Dakota Chief Justice Gilbertson to create a mental health court in Minnehaha County. 
  • Created a multiagency state task force to develop a comprehensive plan to prevent suicide in South Dakota, including on our reservations.

Governor Noem also launched the famous “Meth. We’re On It.” campaign, which led to a tremendous increase in South Dakotans reaching out for help with their addiction. The website offering help received tens of thousands of hits, and hundreds of individuals reached out for help. As a result, South Dakota was the only state in the nation that actually experienced a sizable decrease in overdose deaths when the pandemic hit. While overdoses increased by 30% nationally, overdoses in South Dakota dropped by 16%.

Governor Noem is also investing $15 million over the next four years to support the development and expansion of regional behavioral health centers statewide. This will build on previous investments in short-term mental health services in Yankton, Watertown, and Pennington County.

Without comprehensive regional supports in place, individuals in crisis are often intercepted by law enforcement or emergency departments. These new, integrated regional behavioral health centers will include crisis stabilization, residential substance use disorder treatment services, and transitional housing.

In South Dakota, we pride ourselves on being strong and handling whatever comes at us. But too often, we forget that even the strong need help sometimes. We must end the stigma around mental health and substance abuse treatment and encourage those we love to seek help – and our policies must reflect this.

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