Courtesy photo: The staff at Brookings Behavioral Health and Wellness includes, back row from left: Andrea Brown, Robin Erz, Jenna Heylens, Madeline Carroll-Schaal, Courtney Jordan, Lona Groos, Samantha Shulda, Dan Kelley and Courtney Young, front row: Mary Beth Fishback, Amy Ward, Lisa Syrstad, Amber Leafstedt, Bridjett Sturzenbecher, Nicole Peterson, Shirley Clayson, Tracy Chapman and Melissa Coull. Not pictured: Keely Delaney and Dr. Michael Moeller.

BROOKINGS – East Central Behavioral Health is now named Brookings Behavioral Health and Wellness (BBHW) after a recent update of programs and facelift of the center itself. 

BBHW is in the same location that East Central was at, 211 Fourth St., with a new name. 

The building itself has been rebranded, too, as The Ivy Center, and clinical staff at the facility has more than doubled to better serve the community’s mental health and substance abuse needs. 

The goal of having The Ivy Center and BBHW be two separate entities is to have an open area within the building for various other groups to hold their meetings. The ribbon cutting to establish the rebranding took place on Sept. 6.

Brookings Behavioral Health and Wellness is a nonprofit mental health and substance abuse treatment center that is accredited by the Department of Social Services in South Dakota.

As an accredited entity, the BBHW receives county funding, and the center has a policy of accepting anyone for its services regardless of their ability to pay. 

Having that policy means there are certain things that still need to be paid for that are potentially not being met by either insurance or the clients themselves. The main sources of revenue for the center are the billable contracts it has with the state, but some of the services are not billable.

The county funding is to “help offset the services we’re not able to bill for in any other way,” Executive Director Mary Beth Fishback said. 

Two years ago, the BBHW was receiving $50,000-$60,000 in county funding per year. Now it’s receiving $150,000 from the County.

“I came on board initially as the interim executive director in May 2018. I’ve since taken over as executive director as of June 2019,” Fishback said. “So really over about the last year/year-and-a-half, we have worked very hard on expanding our core services, just realizing that the need for mental health and substance abuse services in Brookings – really across the country – is growing significantly. So, there’s been a need to expand our core services and make sure that everyone that needs services has access to those services.”

The center offers a plethora of mental health, substance abuse and physical wellness clinics and services. Over the past year-and-a-half, the clinical staff at the center has grown from seven to 18 staffed clinicians, Fishback said. This means that the center can more readily help and serve those in need. 

BBHW offers individual, children, youth, family services, group and home-based mental health therapy sessions as well as mental health clinical support services at all of the schools in Brookings. There are also substance abuse sessions for individuals, families and groups and prevention classes for DUI offenders.

Clinical emergency services are available at all times through the center. At least one clinician is on call “24/7 – 365,” Fishback said.

“With the need going up in Brookings,” Fishback said, “we’ve needed to provide staff members with all of these services that are needed. Even with that amount of growth, we are still seeing an increase in need.”

Back in June, the Brookings Mental Health Task Force presented its findings from a community survey. Over 35% of those who completed the survey said that the main reason why they are unable to see a counselor (for mental health or substance abuse treatments) was simply because there were no available appointments, which meant there was not enough health care professionals in the community. A majority (more than 51%) of those surveyed also said that seeking mental health treatment was too expensive. And another major finding was those surveyed said the two most needed things in Brookings are more crisis support options (for mental health/substance abuse issues) and more counselors in the Brookings school system.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and South Dakota is 13th in the nation for highest rate of suicide.

Fishback has incorporated several new components to the various programs offered at Brookings Behavioral Health and Wellness.

An important piece of information the BBHW found through the Mental Health Task Force was the connection between physical wellness and mental health. Due to this data, Fishback has hired a nurse to work at the center for clinical support and case management specifically focused on nutrition, physical activity and those enduring chronic physical ailments. 

The new program involving physical wellness and mental health is called “Nourish to Flourish,” where all physical health-specific case managers work with individuals to better their physical and mental well-being.

Another addition to the BBHW is a partnership with South Dakota State University’s College of Nursing. Fishback said they will have nursing and dietetic student internships at the Ivy Center, working with the case managers and clients.

The BBHW is also teaming up with the Boys & Girls Club of Brookings as well as all the after-school GAP and Teen Court programs. Clinicians from BBHW will work with  staff at all of these programs to offer any additional help they can to both the staff and directly with the children themselves. 

The center now offers sessions with psychiatrists for a few days every week.

Fishback also wanted to bring attention to the center’s Rural Support program, in which they offer free sessions to farmers in the area. According to the CDC, the suicide rate among farmers is 1.5 times higher than the national average.

For more information, visit, or stop in to speak with someone at the Ivy Center at 211 Fourth St., or call 697-2850. 

If you need mental health emergency services, call the Helpline Center at 211 or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

Contact Matthew Rhodes at

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