• April 2021


Avera Builds New Behavioral Health Wing

Avera Building

Now under construction is a new four-story wing at the Avera Behavioral Health Center in Sioux Falls to add much-needed services including more capacity for children and adolescents, residential addiction care for youth, 24/7 psychiatric urgent care and partial hospitalization space.

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is substantially boosting the project with $13 million in grant funding that includes an $8 million gift and a $5 million matching portion; an additional $5 million in funds is being raised by the Avera Foundation.

"The need for psychiatric care for at-risk youth is great, and the needs are complex. Anger, acting out, anxiety, depression and chemical dependency are being seen in children and adolescents at younger ages, and the numbers are growing," said Walter Panzirer, a trustee with the Helmsley Charitable Trust. "This expansion will help care for all of the needs that Avera is presented with. Avera Behavioral Health is the only provider of many of these services in a 250-mile radius. We want to help provide resources so that youth and their families can experience the life-changing intervention offered by expert and dedicated professionals."

Avera's most recent Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) identified top needs as gaps in services for behavioral health and chemical dependency. Because of the pandemic, need for behavioral health services for conditions such as anxiety and depression are expected to increase in children and youth, due to effects of social isolation, disconnectedness, uncertainty, change, fear and other factors, as well as delayed treatment in some cases.

The $28 million project includes space for the following:

Fourth floor: A 14-bed child unit and youth residential addiction care.
The new child unit adds to 40 beds in two specialized units already available for patients under age 18. This will make space in the existing hospital to group teen-agers and "tweeners" closer together while giving younger children the specialized care they need.

The fourth floor will also provide eight beds for youth residential addiction care — a service that is new to Avera and otherwise no longer exists in South Dakota. "Addiction care often goes hand in hand with other behavioral health disorders, such as depression, as youth try to mask their pain. This new wing will allow us to provide this needed level of care," said Thomas Otten, Assistant Vice President, Avera Behavioral Health Center.

Third floor: Senior behavioral health unit.
Several years ago, this program was moved to the Avera Prince of Peace campus to free up space at the Avera Behavioral Health Center. Moving this unit to the new wing will make room to expand the transitional care unit at the Avera Prince of Peace campus for hard-to-place patients with specialized medical needs.

Second floor: Adult beds.
This will provide space for a possible future adult unit and four additional adult beds right away, as well as a walkway between the new wing and the existing building.

Ground floor: 24-hour psychiatric urgent care and partial hospitalization.
Currently, hospital emergency rooms are the only option in Sioux Falls for families or law enforcement when someone is having a psychiatric crisis, for example, suicidal thoughts, intent or plan. "Medical emergency rooms are not specially designed for psychiatric care. We will have expert staff ready to help people with psychiatric needs at any time of the day or night. This will be a great option for individuals and families in crisis as well as our first responders," Otten said.

The ground floor will also provide space for partial hospitalization — for up to 30 adults and 10 youth. Partial hospitalization involves therapy and treatment during the day while the patient goes home at night.

This is the first time Avera will be able to offer partial hospitalization to youth, allowing them to spend part of their day in school and part of their day making progress on their behavioral health condition that may be impeding their success in school and life.

A robust telehealth component will provide for chemical dependency evaluations or mental health assessments for students in schools across the region.

"We are grateful for this opportunity provided by the generous Helmsley grant to look at the full continuum of care and identify where we could enhance and add services in order to better serve our community. This addition will change thousands of lives," Otten said.

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