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New Pennington County drug diversion program to focus on native healing

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Local and county officials are coming together to create a new avenue for drug treatment and jail diversion in Rapid City.

Many diversion programs already exist in Pennington County for juveniles, young adults, and adults.

The Care Campus is one piece in diversion that has been open and running for over a year now, becoming a model of addiction and drug treatment services elsewhere in the nation.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom says they continue to analyze first year statistics to improve admission policies and community needs. Statistics presented before the Pennington County Commission Tuesday morning shows 84% of admissions are Native American.

The county and city run building already offers a large number of beds for detox, safe solutions, and residential treatment but the Native Healing Program in Rapid City is expanding for the very demographic utilizing the majority of the Care Campus’s services.

The Native Healing Program offers drug and alcohol treatment services at the Sioux San Hospital but with a tailored approach that differs from services at the Care Campus with a second location on East St. James Street in Rapid City that will expand their services to offer residential treatment.

“Mainly what we do is a lot of cultural based treatment because most of our people are Native Americans and no matter what tribe they come from, they’re spiritual so we have a lot of faith based programming,” said Program Director, Stanley LaRoque.

Because methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl use continues to be a problem in Western South Dakota, treatment services are moving from short-term to long-term programs. Once patients are able to break the addiction, long-term care helps them maintain sobriety, obtain any needed documents, find a job, and so on.
After struggling to find funding, the program and county partnership will help fund between $25,000 to $35,000 to help the program open 25 residential treatment beds by the first of the year. Twelve of the beds will be for diversion candidates referred by the state.

“This is a small piece in getting this done but it may be the last piece,” said Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo.

While the Care Campus recently opened 64 residential treatment beds, another 25 will offer the next step to even more people.

“I’m very glad that Rapid City is moving forward,” said LaRoque. “The Care Campus is a big process but I think what we add is another piece to that because there’s a whole bunch of pieces in this town moving forward to make things better for everybody and I think we’re part of that and I’m glad we are.”
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