Mental health care needs are an ever-growing concern, particularly given the increased isolation from the last two pandemic years. The rate of adults reporting anxiety or depression tripled since 2019, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. As of late 2021, nearly 25% of adults in South Dakota report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder. For youth ages 10–19, suicide is the leading cause of death in South Dakota, and our state is fifth nationally in its suicide rate among teenagers.
The state needs to allocate more money to regional mental health centers, and provider shortages are particularly acute in rural areas. Currently, South Dakota only meets 16.8% of its need for mental health care professionals, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This is a major shortcoming that can have serious consequences.
As a state, we need to work together to craft solutions for the full range of mental health problems and addiction issues while taking the lead from professionals in the field. Revenue from alcohol and gambling that the state already receives, in addition to the funds that would become available through Medicaid expansion, should be directed to programs focused on mental health and addiction recovery.