Leader in mental health services to retire

This piece is presented by Avera.

Mental health services in South Dakota have transformed over the past four decades through new facilities, legislation, policy changes and evidence-based practices.

Steve Lindquist, who has been an active participant in this transformation, will retire from his role as assistant vice president for behavioral health at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center in December after almost 20 years with Avera. Thomas Otten, director of inpatient services for behavioral health, has been named Lindquist’s successor.

In addition to being at the helm of Avera Behavioral Health Center – the region’s largest private inpatient behavioral health center – Lindquist also has served as director of mental health for the state of South Dakota and as administrator of the George S. Mickelson Center for the Neurosciences, formerly known as the Human Services Center in Yankton.

“I’ve been privileged to serve on every mental health statute committee in the state of South Dakota, and I’ve been invited to the table for any significant changes in mental health legislation,” he said.

Lindquist, the son of a pastor, grew up in Beresford and earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of South Dakota.

“This was in the era of the Vietnam war. My draft number was so low I was sure I would be drafted, but three months before I graduated in 1973, the draft ended.”

Right out of college, Lindquist gained perspective as an aid at HSC. “At this time in the evolution of mental health services, patients stayed in wards. There was long-term institutionalization of patients and a tremendous amount of stigma.”

He then worked as a psychiatric social worker at HSC and then a child protection worker – a job that he admits was so tough he almost gave up on the field altogether.

“I was going to take the civil service exam and become a postal carrier,” Lindquist said. That’s when his wife, Patricia, suggested he return to school to earn his Master of Social Work degree. He took her advice, graduating with the degree from Michigan State University.

That degree became a turning point that led him back to administrative roles at the Human Services Center in Yankton. In 1989, he was named top administrator of HSC, and his first task was to deal with the fallout of an event three months earlier when a patient walked away from a patient outing and shot and killed two Yankton-area residents.

As the youngest person ever named to the administrator role during HSC’s 110-year history, Lindquist oversaw the design and construction of a 300-bed state psychiatric treatment facility. He also developed new models of treatment for long-term patients and won a governor’s award as the creator of IMPACT – Individualized and Mobile Program of Assertive Community Treatment, which provides mental health services where patients need them, whether at home, in the community or at the workplace.

Lindquist was introduced to Avera in 1997 after a tragic fire at the Benedictine Monastery in Yankton. He offered to house the nuns in vacated HSC space after construction of the new psychiatric hospital.

In 1998, he was asked to do a review of mental health services for McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. “I typed up a recommendation, and a month later I got a call that they liked my report, and they’d like me to do those things as leader of the behavioral health program,” Lindquist said.

During his tenure at Avera, he again had the opportunity to oversee the construction of a mental health facility. This time, it was the 110-bed, state-of-the-art Avera Behavioral Health Center. Construction was completed in 2006 on this center, known for its patient-centered healing environment, where patients can receive behavioral health care with respect, dignity and privacy. Patient satisfaction scores for inpatient behavioral health units have remained  consistently in the top 10 percent nationally for the past six years.

Also at Avera, Lindquist grew the Employee Assistance Program from two contracts to over 150 with 80,000 covered lives in 32 states. He developed contracts with multiple Minnesota and Iowa counties to provide involuntary mental health hold services. This involved changing the laws in South Dakota to complement Minnesota statutes.

Highlights of Lindquist’s career also include involvement on state task forces for managed care, telemedicine, behavioral health, and as a member of the state mental health statute rewrite committee. As president of the South Dakota Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Lindquist helped pave the way for a Master of Social Work program in South Dakota.

“Now, those students are making an impact in the state,” he said.

Lindquist and his wife, Patricia, have two grown daughters and three grandchildren.

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Leader in mental health services to retire

He’s been at the table for any major change in mental services for decades. Here’s a look back and tribute to Avera’s retiring Steve Lindquist.

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