After less than 2 months in operation, a community triage center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has already established new paths toward recovery for many individuals experiencing behavioral health crises. The Link was established to serve people who would otherwise frequently end up in the emergency room or jail, neither of which is equipped to effectively meet behavioral health needs. The facility provides services appropriate for a person amid an acute behavioral health crisis: observation in a safe environment for those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, medically monitored management for those experiencing symptoms of withdrawal, and crisis stabilization support for critical mental health concerns. All of these services end with a forward-looking component, from treatment referrals following discharge to follow-up and safety planning, giving The Link’s short-term intervention the chance to develop into long-term recovery.

Since opening its doors, the center has helped a steady flow of individuals in crisis. Some have come to The Link voluntarily, while others were brought there by first responders or law enforcement. The Link is now replacing the Minnehaha County Jail and, in many instances, local emergency rooms as the place where law enforcement and emergency medical services personnel take individuals in crisis or who are under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The Link operates under a model utilizing speedy drop-off practices, so first responders can quickly return to service in the community. So far, an encouraging number of those who have gone through observation while under the influence or monitored withdrawal at the facility have expressed interest in ongoing treatment. “If this place wasn’t here,” one patient told the staff, “I would have just kept drinking myself to death.”

“It’s deeply gratifying to see this long-studied and planned concept by so many key stakeholders in Minnehaha County realized and helping those who need it,” says Policy Research Program Area Director Travis Parker, MS, LIMHP, CPC, who has been involved in the project since its planning phase. The Link was conceptualized through a systems mapping and planning process facilitated by Policy Research, with initial funding from a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Safety and Justice Challenge Grant and continued support from the South Dakota Department of Social Services Division of Behavioral Health. Beginning in 2017, Mr. Parker worked with strategic community partners, including Minnehaha County, South Dakota; the City of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Avera Health; and Sanford Health—all now collaborators in The Link’s operation—to determine if a triage center would be appropriate for the community. In order to inform the conceptual plan, Policy Research worked with stakeholders to collect and analyze data to determine need, conducted a Sequential Intercept Mapping Workshop to determine interventions, and visited model community sites to identify operational best practices.

The learnings from that planning process are now in action at the facility and changing lives daily. The Link will continue to receive ongoing financial support for the foreseeable future from the City of Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County, Avera Health, and Sanford Health. Staff at Policy Research are eager to follow the progress and utilization of The Link as staff and leadership continue their efforts to better serve those persons in the Minnehaha County area with behavioral health conditions.