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Published on August 30, 2022

Madeline Miller and Melynda Schmidt

A Day in the Life at The Link

Hundreds of people facing alcohol and drug issues have come through the doors at The Link in downtown Sioux Falls since it opened in 2021.

In its first year of operations, The Link community triage center had more than 4,000 triage encounters and served more than 1,400 unique individuals. Some were intoxicated with police escorting them. Others were tired of the way they lived due to drugs. Some were young, others older but there was one constant – the Avera-led team at The Link was able to provide some measure of help, counseling, education and support, regardless of the situation.

One afternoon, two Sioux Falls Police officers brought a 30-something patient who was found asleep on a sidewalk.

Caregivers worked with the man, explaining what was happening and what would occur next. They took his vital signs and asked health questions.

The team also helped him change from his clothes to a clean gown. They answered his questions and ensured his belongings were gathered and safely kept in a locker. His intoxication led him to repeat a few phrases and to struggle while changing clothes.

A few minutes later, the patient was resting in The Link’s sobriety room. Out of the relentless heat, no longer facing any threats, the patient could relax and soon fell asleep. The staff would later work with him on next steps – if he was willing to get help for his substance abuse.

Not only was the patient receiving support he needed, but the police officers were, too. The man wasn’t a belligerent threat or violating the law. In such cases, The Link gives law enforcement another choice – instead of jail – saving their time, so they can return to the street and continue service.

A Safe Space With Resources and Comfort

No single day at The Link can fully represent the role it plays in so many lives. No appointment needed, no insurance required – and anyone in need, can find a haven of assistance that’s open, every day and night.

Open 24 hours a day, the Link has 10 private rooms for people who need help withdrawing from use of alcohol or drugs, along with an open common area, a lounge with a TV and two sobriety rooms.

The concept for a community triage center began as a collaboration that included the City of Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County, Sanford Health and Avera to find a better alternative for helping people caught up in these types of situations. The Board of Directors of The Link later selected Avera as the provider to operate services. This includes nursing staff, security, advanced practice providers, chemical dependency counselors, peer support, and others.

The staff usually see 10 to 12 people in a 24-hour period. Some days are slower – and on one day, 14 individuals got help in less than 12 hours.

The Link team is there not to judge, arrest or punish. Instead, they ensure human beings are treated with respect and aided in their life’s journey – even in the face of substance abuse or addiction. Many substance use or abuse conditions are intertwined with mental health challenges.

In its first year, the site has become better known among people who need help – and with authorities and agencies that seek resources for underserved populations. It’s fully backed by Avera’s medical and behavioral health resources, plus many partners in the city and county.

See how Avera is working with communities across our footprint.

Walking in To Get Help

In the early evening, a walk-in patient sits with a pair of clinical staff as they check pulse, temperature and blood pressure and gather information. This patient wants to stop using drugs but needs help.

During the assessment, the team notices a racing heart rate. A nurse joins the patient, calmly sharing information. Just talking. In time, this one-on-one approach helps the patient calm down.

The patient is assigned a private room and allowed to settle in. The team will administer a drug test and begin medical treatment for withdrawal, as well as offer a daily routine of personal and group counseling sessions. Education – along with support and compassion – can help the patient make a positive change.

As the patients began their evening meal, which The Link provides, a voice cried out from the larger room, now dark.

The intoxicated patient woke up confused and alarmed. The team quickly calmed the patient, providing more blankets and answering questions.

If you have questions or would like to learn more, contact the team at The Link. For immediate help, you can walk in the doors at 132 N. Dakota Ave. in Sioux Falls, or call 605-275-1000.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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