Rising drug issues show need for community triage center

Sioux Falls, SD (KSFY) The Sioux Falls area drug task force has already seized a record breaking amount of drugs this year, with 52 pounds of methamphetamine, nine pounds of heroin and 78 pounds of marijuana.

Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns says of the 40 known drug overdoses in our community this year, 16 of them ended in death.

“We know we're not going to arrest our way out of this problem. We need additional treatment options, we need support from the state, we need private entities to stand up and provide more treatment options because these are serious addictions,” Chief Burns said.

This record breaking year for confiscated drugs in Sioux Falls shows the need for the community triage center county and city officials have talked about to help addicts recover and move forward with their lives.

Many cities around the country already have triage centers designed to take the pressure off emergency rooms and jails where many people with drug, addiction and other mental health problems often end up.

“I think a lot of times people will go to the emergency room because there is nowhere else to go,” Sioux Falls addiction counselor Tara Clayton said.

In November of 2017, KSFY toured a triage center in Las Vegas; just one facility a group of Minnehaha County and Sioux Falls city officials visited to learn more about the triage concept.

“When people learn what it is it’s a really positive reaction, this is something that would look good in Minnehaha County, it’s just getting all the logistics together before you start,” Minnehaha County Commission chair Cindy Heiberger said.

Heiberger said officials have been considering a local triage project for years, but it’s still in the planning stage.

“We're not real far on it yet, other than we know this is a concept we want to move forward with,” she said.

“We need to continue to put resources at this problem, it’s not going to go way,” Chief Burns said.

Law enforcement say the big increase in drug issues in Sioux Falls this year shows the growing need for a facility specifically addressing addiction issues.

“Maybe somewhere down the road a place that parents can bring their loved ones struggling with addiction and at least direct them into treatment,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead said.

Right now, Heiberger says it’s too soon to say just how far down the road it could be before the triage center project moves forward.

“We still have to work through the process of making sure we're ready to open it. We’ve got to have the building, we have to have the staffing model, we have to figure out who's going to run it and the money has got to be there. So yes it is a need, but we still have to work through the process,” Heiberger said.

One of the key questions is funding. Heiberger said both the county and the city should be able to reallocate some funds to a triage center, but she believes it will take partnerships with several other community and nonprofit resources to make the triage center a reality.

While it’s too soon to know an official timeline of the triage center project, county officials say they hope to have a better idea of where the project is headed by next summer.