Simplified: The Link triage center has seen a higher rate of employee turnover than any other Avera entity, according to Thomas Otten, assistant vice president for Avera Behavioral Health.

Why it matters

  • Otten shared his staffing challenges with the Sioux Falls City Council during a presentation Tuesday afternoon. He also shared an update on The Link's mission, progress and impact since opening in June 2021 as the result of a partnership between Sanford, Avera, the City of Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County.
  • In its first two years, The Link has seen more than 8,300 visits – an average of about a dozen a day – among 2,700 unique individuals. Each of those folks has found resources to help with substance use disorder, mental health support or simply a safe place to sober up.
  • But, keeping staff in place has been a "significant challenge," Otten said. The center's nurse manager – the top position at The Link – left earlier this month, and Avera is facing a tough situation with high turnover alongside increasing costs.
"The Link is probably 4% of my census and probably 40% of my stress," Otten said. "It is a very complex program to run." Β 

The Link – located at 132 N. Dakota Ave. – offers primarily three different services:

  • A sobering center, which has provided an alternative to jail or emergency rooms for folks who need a safe place to sober up.
  • Medically managed detox, in which patients who are ready to take the first steps toward sobriety can safely detox before moving to an inpatient or intensive outpatient addiction program.
  • And a mental health crisis stabilization program where people who are in the midst of a mental health crisis – but not in a severe enough situation to merit a stay at a place like Avera Behavioral – can stay to remain safe as they work through it.

In the last year, The Link has also partnered with the Compass Center to offer post-sexual assault care.

The Link's annual budget is $2.1 million, and it is funded in partnership between the four agencies that created it: Sanford, Avera, the city and the county.

  • Councilor Rich Merkouris expressed concern that costs are rising, but funding is currently set at a stable rate for the next three years. He also mentioned the possibility of hiring an executive director to lead philanthropy efforts for The Link.
"This (addiction) is possibly the number one issue in our community," Merkouris said.

What happens next?

Otten said he's actively working to hire a new nurse manager for The Link. He's also had meetings with existing staff to talk about what he might be able to do to help them feel safe and supported in their jobs – especially if a pay raise isn't possible.

"Finances are a real struggle," Otten said. "We're gonna barely make it right now, and we'll run out of money faster if we pay more. So we just have to balance all that."

If you need help

If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse, The Link is open 24/7 and only takes walk-ins. Get to the front door, and the staff will do the rest.

  • You can also call 605-275-1000 option 1