Mental health 'holds' rising steadily in Minnehaha County

Officials say both the number of cases and the severity of the cases has increased over the past several years.


SIOUX FALLS — The number of people put on "holds" for mental health issues in Minnehaha County and the seriousness of the cases is increasing dramatically, according to officials with the Board of Mental Illness.

“We’re seeing increases of 8% to 10% every year,” board co-chairperson Tom Werheim told the Minnehaha County Commission on Tuesday, April 19. That includes residents who are suffering from mental difficulties, are possibly suicidal or in danger of harming themselves or others.

Werheim said the severity of cases is also on the rise as many patients are spending more time at behavioral health facilities before they are released.

One of the goals of the board, which is now working jointly with the Lincoln County board, is to track the severity of cases more closely. The two counties will use an online program that securely and safely stores information, said co-chairperson Erin Johnson.

The number of holds has increased from 1,031 in 2017 to 1,550 last year.


Through March of this year, 390 people were held for an examination, which usually takes about a half hour to determine if further treatment is needed. The exams can take place at hospitals, the Veterans Administration facility, the jail, behavioral health facilities and the Juvenile Detention Center.

Werheim said March is usually the busiest month and this year was no exception with 200 holds reported. In a typical month, the number is from 160 to 180.

Last Saturday, he said a mental health professional handled 30 cases that ended up in at least a 15-hour day for the specialist on duty.

In South Dakota, anyone can request a hold on a person they believe is in danger after filing paperwork with a law enforcement office.

Werheim said they are working on preparing their budget for next year and there may have to be adjustments, although they didn’t say what they may request. In response to a question from Commissioner Dean Karsky, Johnson didn’t know the exact cost per hold. She said it can depend on the length of stay. Hearings are held to determine holds and lengths of stay.

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