Map of South Dakota Counties in the Virtual Care Crisis Pilot

Technology will provide South Dakota law enforcement and probation officers with access to mental health expertise in the midst of a crisis, irrespective of the time or place, thanks to funding from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Under the Virtual Crisis Care pilot program, mental health professionals will assist law enforcement in 18 counties and probation officers in one Judicial Circuit to de-escalate, stabilize, and assess the safety of those in a crisis and arrange for follow-up care with local community mental health centers. View the pilot locations here.

“The goal of this pilot program is to prove its effectiveness, cost efficiency, and worth to communities and state leaders, so it can be made available to sheriff’s offices, police departments, and community supervision officers across South Dakota,” said Barbara Pierce, CJI Director of Justice Initiatives. “Connecting behavioral health professionals with law enforcement serving as first responders to mental health crises is not a new concept – mobile crisis teams are used in cities across the country. What is unique is making mobile crisis teams possible across rural communities.”

Using a tablet to video conference with Avera eCARE in Sioux Falls, individuals will receive only the level of care they need and officers will receive help with complex mental health issues they are often not specially trained to handle. Video conferencing will also mean taxpayers benefit from fewer costly mental health holds, transports, and hospitalizations.

“About one in every 10 calls to law enforcement involves someone in a potential mental health crisis. It can be extremely difficult for rural law enforcement officers to deal with these issues,” said Walter Panzirer, a Helmsley Trustee. “Helmsley is proud to be on the forefront of increasing access to vital mental health resources for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”

Virtual Crisis Care partners include the South Dakota Unified Judicial System, Avera eCARE, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, in collaboration with the South Dakota Sheriffs’ Association and community mental health centers. CJI’s role in the pilot program is to recruit and engage with pilot sites; coordinate the work of the partners; and track data, evaluate, and document outcomes.

Read the full Virtual Crisis Care press release.

Watch the press conference announcing the Virtual Crisis Care program pilot.

Listen to a South Dakota Public Broadcasting “In The Moment” segment featuring the Virtual Crisis Care program.