The Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office participates in the commitment process of mentally ill persons by representing persons that petition the county Board of Mental Illness for another person's involuntary commitment to the Human Services Center or elsewhere. A person is subject to involuntary commitment if the person has a severe mental illness, and due to the severe mental illness, is a danger to themselves or others, and needs and is likely to benefit from treatment.
The Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office has a team of one prosecutor and one administrative assistant that specialize in mental illness commitments. Commitment hearings are held either in front of the Minnehaha County Board of Mental Illness, wherever the person is hospitalized, or at the Human Services Center in Yankton, South Dakota. The Minnehaha County State's Attorney's Office works closely with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and mental health professionals in handling these cases.
An involuntary commitment proceeding can be started when a person with knowledge of the current condition and/or recent events in another person's life fills out a petition asking that the person be committed for treatment.
The petitioner is usually a family member, friend, police officer, social worker, counselor, doctor, or psychiatrist. The person asking for the commitment fills out paperwork, called a petition, stating why they believe a person is mentally ill and needs to be committed. Once the paperwork is signed, law enforcement will take custody of the mentally ill person and take them to Avera Behavioral Health Center for a 24-hour hold.
During that hold, the person will be examined by a qualified mental health professional who makes the decision whether the person should be released or committed for treatment. If the person needs to be committed for treatment, a hearing will be held. If the evidence shows at the hearing that the person has a severe mental illness, is a danger to themselves or others based on suicidal threats or behavior, dangerousness to others, or an inability to care for themselves, then the person will be committed for treatment not to exceed 90 days.
Q. What do I do if someone I know is a danger to themselves or others and won't seek voluntary treatment?
A. If you believe someone you know is an immediate danger to self or others, call 911. In non-emergency situations, if you believe someone you know is a danger to themselves or others and won't seek voluntary treatment, you can contact the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Department at (605)367-4300. The Sheriff's Department oversees the filing of the petitions, and will assist you with filling out the petition and listing the facts which you believe indicate the need for involuntary commitment. The Sheriff's Department will also inform you of the time and place of the hearing where the Board of Mental Illness will decide whether to commit the person for treatment.
Q. If I file a petition to have someone committed, do I need to hire my own attorney?
A. No. The State's Attorney's Office represents the petitioner at the hearing, so there is no need for you to hire your own attorney.
Q. Will I have to testify in front of my loved one or family member that I am asking to have committed?
A. The State's Attorney's Office realizes that you, as the petitioner, may be reluctant to testify because you are afraid the person you are asking to have committed might be angry with you or blame you if he or she is committed. The State's Attorney's Office will be sensitive to that concern, and if there is sufficient evidence available without calling you as a witness, the State’s Attorney’s Office will try not to. However, in some cases you, as the petitioner, will need to testify. In those cases, the State's Attorney's Office will advise you that you may tell your loved one or family member that you did not want to testify, but that we required you to do so.
Q. What happens to the mentally ill person if they are committed for treatment?
A. If a person is found to need treatment, they will be committed to the Human Services Center in Yankton, South Dakota for inpatient treatment for a period not to exceed 90 days.