editor’s Note: The story below mentions mental health issues. If you need help or know someone who does, please call 988, the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, available 24/7 for free and confidential support. It is also the third of a five piece, which explores how years of gap in mental health services have now reached some of the youngest South Africans.
A year-long Argus Leader investigation revealed that although the state has worked to reduce juvenile detention rates, a lack of availability and access to mental health services and community-based alternatives to juvenile detention leave children in limbo Is.
It’s a problem compounded by the slow growth of mental health specialists throughout South Dakota.
And for some families in South Dakota, reaching out to a therapist for help has been more difficult than they expected.
More:Crisis care center to seek aid from South Dakota lawmakers in 2023
South Dakota family turns to Arkansas for help
When Jamie Hoogendoorn-Brown heard about her son’s behavior at school, she was shocked.
Tantrums certainly happened in her household, but they weren’t happening every day, nor did she find them particularly severe. But teachers said her son Travis was yelling and whining starting in October 2021, and Hoogendoorn-Brown decided it was time to talk to someone.
“I had to start searching blindly,” she said, hoping she would be able to find someone who could help with some coping mechanisms.
A friend recently had a good experience with Parent-Child Interaction Therapy, which aims to help children ages 2-7 struggle with behavioral problems.
South Dakota has only had doctors of medicine in the state since 2018, the first of whom was Ellie Keller, who is trying to join Hoogendoern-Brown.
But when she called in mid-March, Keller said she’d be unable to book a session until May.
Hoping for an even quicker solution, Hoogendoorn took a suggestion from Keller, recommending a counselor she knew was starting to practice PCIT, not just in South Dakota.
“So we have weekly Zoom meetings with someone in Arkansas,” Hoogendoorn-Brown said.
They’re about six seasons in now, and while she prefers to stay personal, “It’s going great,” she said.
More:A South Dakota 12-year-old waited 9 weeks for mental health help. Rather he will be sent home.
The PCIT focuses on things like emphasizing positive behaviors, such as thanking Travis for walking you slowly through the kitchen, instead of saying he’s glad he’s not walking through the kitchen. Told.
“He’s calming down,” Hoogendoorn-Brown said, and his outbursts are becoming fewer and farther between. While they’re only a quarter through the program — she said they’d probably do about 25 sessions if they were seeing a counselor in person — she’s happy to see the skills working.
Still, she said, it’s frustrating that it takes so long to get help for her child, and it requires these compromises.
Regarding his dealings with his family, he said, “Not even a big problem.” She knows families who struggle with more serious behavioral problems, who have a hard time keeping up with the expense or time needed to address them, who are trying to make sure their kids can get an education.
However it happens, she’s glad her son is getting help, she said.
“She’s making some progress,” he said.
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Trouble getting son’s treatment
When Ann Mystereck’s daughter was diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago, it was relatively easy to find a therapist who could see her after the school day ended.
And it helped. Lauren learned a routine, took some medications, and has been doing well ever since.
When Misterek’s son, Bennett, was recently diagnosed with ADHD, in addition to autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, things weren’t nearly as easy.
“With that, it has been very difficult to find a therapist who is her age and has the availability for my schedule,” Meisterek said.
More:Limited access to mental health support in South Dakota keeps this 16-year-old in limbo
There are many complications. Mystereck and her ex-husband divorced about three years ago, meaning she is now a single parent. She works in finance, so if the markets are open, she’s in the office. Her ex-husband lives in Iowa, making it challenging for her to take on Bennett. And she would prefer not to drag her son out of school to see a therapist.
He was hard enough to test the first time he started showing issues with impulse control when he was in first grade. Lauren received her diagnosis at Sioux Falls Psychological Services, where she soon began seeing a counselor, who she saw every week for one-hour sessions.
With Bennett, she said, “it’s completely different.” During the pandemic, SFPS has seen fewer patient discharges, meaning it is harder to recruit new patients. MrTrek was asking friends and anyone else he could think of for referrals.
More:What happened to Noem’s $15 million pledge to regional mental health centers? Here we know.
In the end, the best solution Mystereck found was a therapist who could see Bennett twice a month for 30-minute sessions, which still required her to use vacation time to and from appointments.
“I was so excited that there was a doctor who could see him at all,” she said. “I just try to make the most of it.”
Mystereck says she knows she’s not alone in her struggle to find help, and stresses that most parents understand that these problems aren’t any therapist’s fault — it’s that there aren’t enough of them. Yes, she said.
“I just wish there were more people,” she said. “It really takes a special person to work in these conditions.”