Before It Gets Better: DSS Tool Gives First Responders Ways to Help Mental Health Crises

Last Updated by Gary Ellenbolt on

Those with careers in law enforcement, or who serve as probation officers or first responders, are trained early in their careers to be ready for anything.  In cases that involve dealing with someone with behavioral health difficulties, it can be difficult to figure out what to be ready for.  The South Dakota Department of Social Services offers a manual that serves as a road map for dealing with those sorts of crises.  

For the sake of patients, their families, and those who take care of them on a short-term basis, issues with behavioral health must be diagnosed and handled immediately.  Perhaps it’s a police officer called to a home or dorm room—maybe someone with a small-town ambulance service handling someone who has not taken medication for a few days.  It’s pretty obvious—seconds count, and being wrong could be disastrous.  The State Department of Social Services has a study guide that those who come to the rescue can utilize to determine their best course of action.  Tiffany Wolfgang directs the D-S-S Division of Behavioral Health.  It is responsible for all public behavioral health efforts in the state. 

“Well," Wolfgang says, "the Behavioral Health Quick Reference Guide was originally put together for those folks who are working in the justice field, who have interactions with individuals who may have a behavioral health disorder.  So maybe probation officers, judges, those kinds of individuals—so they would have a quick reference guide as to ‘How do I help my client?’ ‘How do I make a referral?’  ‘How do I access services?’”

Wolfgang says the term “behavioral health,” brings images  of several emotional disorders that affect the brain.  Wolfgang says that’s only part of it.

Wolfgang says, “We look at overall mental health—we look at behavioral health issues, substance use disorders—those kinds of issues that people are struggling with.”

The guide covers those addicted to alcohol or other substances, along with people suffering from medical disorders.  Wolfgang says the guide tells professionals what to look for, or whom to call, in a hurry—page 17 breaks it down quickly in the form of a flow chart.

“And that flow chart is really specific to probation officers and parole agents who are kind of, through their assessment process.  They both have some assessments that they do to determine the flow of services that should be appropriate or could be appropriate.”

According to Wolfgang, the reference guide is meant to introduce new professionals in law enforcement or the judicial system to what’s out there, and what to do in a hurry.  She says there’s another way for police officers to learn more on the subject—a Mental Health First Aid Training Program.

“The mental health first aid is actually a nationally-known model we have folks trained in—and then they, in turn, can train individuals in law enforcement.  It’s similar to when you go to first-aid training, CPR training—it’s providing you that basic level of understanding what people may be experiencing when they’re in a crisis.  And then, some skills and tools that you can do if you’re that person encountering that person in crisis.”

And if that professional wants advanced information, Wolfgang points the way.

“I would encourage them if they’re in law enforcement—to definitely reach out to the law enforcement academy that’s operated through DCI; they really serve as that central hub for law enforcement training.  Folks could certainly give our office a call and we can navigate the resources that are available.”

With one in five adults in the U-S struggling with a mental disorder, and one in ten dealing with substance abuse—it won’t take long before they need serious help, and the first responder will serve as the first line of defense.  Wolfgang and all behavioral health practitioners emphasize if someone wants the help, it’s available, and recovery is possible.  

subscribe to sdpb email updates TileAd_Beatsupport_300x250.png food and cooking banner image learning blog link living blog link news and information blog link science and technology blog link sports blog link image

The Latest From SDPB Radio News

Meteorologist Predicts Less Fire Activity For 2019

The state wildfire meteorologist for South Dakota anticipates a slower than average wildfire season this year. A...

South Dakota Focus: Hunting And Habitat

In The Moment ... April 25, 2019 Show 562 Hour 2 SDPB's Stephanie Rissler recaps last week's South Dakota Focus...

On Call With The Prairie Doc: Lung Disease And Sleep Disorders

In The Moment ... April 25, 2019 Show 562 Hour 2 On Call with the Prairie Doc airs Thursdays at 7:00 p.m. Central on...

On The Other Hand: Reporter Shield Law

In The Moment ... April 25, 2019 Show 562 Hour 1 When Governor Kristi Noem took office and the 2019 South Dakota...

Emily Oster's New Book "Cribsheet"

In The Moment ... April 25, 2019 Show 562 Hour 2 Stay-at-work or stay-at-home? Breastfeed or break out the bottle...

Food Marketing Institute V. Argus Leader

In The Moment ... April 25, 2019 Show 562 Hour 1 It's a quest to open records that has taken editors from the Sioux...

Noise-Makers, Fascists And Music

In The Moment ... April 25, 2019 Show 562 Hour 1 Alex Lang, assistant professor of history at Black Hills State...

Farmer's Stress Hotline Sees Increase in Calls After Multiple Weather Systems

The Farmer’s Stress Hotline is seeing an increase in calls after multiple weather systems impacted the upper Midwest....

Sanford Raises Flag Honoring Organ Donors and Recipients

More than 113,000 people were on the national organ transplant waiting list at the start of 2019. On Wednesday night,...

Keystone XL Water Hearings Postponed; TransCanada Wants Tribes Excluded

A hearing set for Wednesday, April 24, to consider TransCanada's request to use water for construction of the...

The Latest from NPR News

Federal Judge Blocks Trump Changes To Reproductive Health Program

New regulations that would have taken effect on May 3 would deny federal funds for low-income patients to clinics...

Judge Is Open To Releasing Man Prosecutors Have Called 'Domestic Terrorist'

The judge notes the only charges against Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson involve drug and weapons violations and...

Trump Administration Puts Offshore Drilling Plan On Hold After Setback In Court

The Trump administration is delaying efforts to boost offshore oil and gas drilling in the wake of a recent court...

At Kanye West's Sunday Service, 'He Is The Church'

Kanye West has been hosting exclusive worship gatherings he calls "Sunday Service." Jia Tolentino, staff writer for...

After Pentagon Ends Contract, Top-Secret Scientists Group Vows To Carry On

The 60 or so members of the Jasons are normal academics by day. But each summer, they come together to study tough...

This Is Your Brain On Ads: How Mass Marketing Affects Our Minds

How many ads have you encountered today? On this week's radio show, we discuss the insidiousness of advertising in...