Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Benjamin Hagen Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Thomas Horton J.D.

Third Advisor

Steven Bucklin Ph.D.


South Dakota Human Services Center, Mental Health, Psychiatric Treatment, South Dakota History, State Hospital, Yankton State Hospital

Subject Categories

Mental and Social Health | Mental Disorders | Psychiatry and Psychology


The history of the South Dakota Human Services Center (HSC), located in Yankton, SD, spans 140 years, from the Dakota Territory days beginning in 1879 to the present. The trials, trends, and tragedies promoting transformation of the state psychiatric hospital are the focus of this thesis, with an emphasis on significant events that shaped the facility. This research examines the challenges and changes in public administration, treatment methods, and psychiatric medical practices. My research was accomplished through identification, retrieval, and review of archived materials, reports, published newspaper articles, and personal accounts. Societal, political, legal, medical, and historical perspectives frame my analysis. The thesis utilizes an overview of chronological events in vignettes and mini essays to recount the history. The format accomplishes the objective of taking a history, spanning nearly fifteen decades, and focuses on specific highlights in a short chapter format. Upon completion, my research may be shared with the Mead Cultural Education Center, located on the HSC campus. This research will serve to increase understanding of the challenges faced when operating a public institution. This thesis strives to enlighten readers about psychiatric hospital services in order to reduce the stigma South Dakotans with mental illness often face.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.