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Pierre hospital changing policy for mental health patients

PIERRE (AP) -- Avera St. Mary's hospital in Pierre is changing how it treats patients with mental health issues after a person who needed further care walked away recently.

PIERRE (AP) - Avera St. Mary's hospital in Pierre is changing how it treats patients with mental health issues after a person who needed further care walked away recently.

The state Department of Health has asked the hospital to come up with a plan to prevent any other patients who need to go to an inpatient mental health hospital from walking off, the Capital Journal reported.

The details of the new process are still being finalized, but Avera St. Mary's Chief Medical Officer Mike Holland said if doctors determine that a patient needs further care, that person will be put in protective custody at the law enforcement center.

Interim CEO Todd Forkel stressed that the new system is supposed to be only temporary.

"None of us thinks that's the most optimal situation," Forkel said.

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Previously, if doctors determined that a patient need further mental health treatment, that person was put on "mental hold" and often were kept at the hospital until transportation to a mental health facility could be arranged. That process often would take a while.

"That's where the problem lies," Holland said.

Forkel said Avera St. Mary's is in the process of hiring a full-time psychiatrist and is working with community groups to come up with a better, more-permanent solution. One of his biggest concerns, he said, is that people needing care will now be too scared of the new process to seek help.

"Please," he said. "The most important thing is to seek out treatment."

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