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Establishment of a Hospital for Dakota Territory

Governor John A. Burbank urged for providing adequate care for mentally ill patients in his 1870 message to the Legislature. At that time the Legislature authorized the governor to contract with Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska for the care of Dakota Territory mentally ill. In 1878, Governor William A. Howard was informed that the St. Peter State Hospital in Minnesota could no longer accept patients due to overcrowding. Governor Howard searched for a building to be used for a hospital and found two large wooden buildings in Yankton, both built to house German-Russian immigrants. The Governor secured the buildings and arranged to have them rebuilt on school lands north of Yankton at the personal expense of $2,286.85.

During the 13th session of the Dakota Territory Legislature in 1879, the Governor advised the lawmakers of his action and the necessary laws were passed, creating the Dakota Hospital for the Insane.

Early Years

During the first six months there were five employees and 31 patients with five being discharged, fully recovered. Appropriation for the first two years was inadequate and citizens generally did not realize that patients needed much more than food and clothing. Because of this, future legislatures were inclined to reduce recommended allowances for their care, treatment, and support.

In 1880, Governor Howard was reimbursed for his personal contribution. At that time, there were 50 patients causing overcrowding and the hospital was understaffed.

In 1899, a devastating fire took the lives of 17 female patients. The catastrophe prompted the state legislature to appropriate much-needed funds to the institution. Laws were enacted requiring fireproof buildings, defining fireproof structures, prescribing smallest area of floor space per patient and describing the minimum per capita amount of air in apartments where patients were kept.

The Early 1900s

In 1918, the name of the hospital was officially changed from Dakota Hospital for the Insane to the Yankton State Hospital.

The patient population in the mid 1920s became more diverse. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the institution went through, as did the rest of the nation, a difficult period. The situation at Yankton was almost impossible to handle with an increasing rate of admissions and a decreasing budget. Ironically, money was somehow found to build a nine-hole golf course at the institution during 1930-1931.

Overcrowding was a serious problem in the mid and late 1930s. With the advent of therapeutic treatments, however, incoming patients were released within a few months, thus helping to ease the overcrowding problem.

World War II disrupted the flow of progress. The Selective Service Act, then in effect, forced the hiring of youth too young for the draft or people too old for military service. In addition, wages at the institution were poor and with so many men gone to war, hospital employees left to take up better-paying jobs.

Changing Attitudes

The 1950s brought increased understanding of mental illness and relatives of patients were more willing to accept them, rather than wanting to hide them in Yankton. Medical work at Yankton in the early 1950’s became more varied and efficient. Changing attitudes toward the mentally ill contributed greatly to improving conditions at the hospital. Various forms of physical force, such as the use of straitjackets, were discontinued. The development of antipsychotic medications also brought about a significant reduction in the hospital census.

Changing Staff and Facility

The 1960s saw a significant enlargement of the medical staff. The staff was also of better quality than at any previous time. The need was also seen at this time for a geriatric department. The intensive treatment program established in the early 1960s showed results as the decade wore on, for the population at the hospital continuously decreased year after year.

From 1968-1973, a great deal of activity took place. Construction began on a new dietary building as well as a new recreational facility. In addition, Ordway, Herried, Mellette and Kyle Buildings were renovated.

On July 1, 1974, the name of the facility was changed from Yankton State Hospital to the South Dakota Human Services Center. The change was enacted by session of the Legislature to more clearly reflect the services offered.

100 Years Later

The year 1979 marked Human Services Center's (HSC) 100th anniversary.

The 1980s saw further development in services and programs available to patients. In 1989-1990 changes took place at HSC following reorganization of the state board which previously coordinated the center’s work. In 1988, voters abolished the Board of Charities and Corrections, which was created under the South Dakota Constitution to handle the state’s inmates and patients in need of various services. In place of the board, two new cabinet-level departments were created which separated the responsibilities for inmates from those of patients. The Department of Human Services, one of the two newly created departments became the governing authority for HSC.

Establishing a New Facility

In 1991, Governor George S. Mickelson directed a study of the existing HSC campus be conducted. This study found it would be more costly to upgrade existing buildings than construct new ones specifically designed for patient treatment. Governor Mickelson advanced bills proposing design and construction of a new psychiatric facility which passed by an overwhelming majority of the 1992 Legislature.

Dedication and Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on April 28, 1994. Recognizing the efforts of Governor Mickelson, the new facility was dedicated "George S. Mickelson Center for the Neurosciences." The new facility was completed in the fall of 1996 and was occupied in October of that year. The Human Services Center is a state-of-the-art treatment center providing inpatient psychiatric and chemical dependency treatment services to South Dakota’s residents.