Patient Advocacy

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health has recognized its responsibility to ensure the rights of those receiving services within its facilities.  To aid in fulfilling this responsibility, it is necessary to establish mechanisms which will help prevent the occurrence of rights violations as well as resolve those violations which may occur.

Aiken Barnwell Mental Health is devoted to providing a comprehensive program to ensure that rights are preserved during the period of treatment.  The approach is primarily a preventative one.  There are three basic elements of the Patient rights program.

  • The Patient Rights Review Procedure is a remedial procedure through which a Patient or an individual acting on behalf of the Patient seeks review and resolution of alleged violations of rights.
  • The Patient Rights Manual delineates official Departmental standards in rights areas.
  • The Patient Rights Orientation and Education Procedures will ensure that staff have knowledge of substantive areas of Patient rights as well as relevant Departmental policies and procedures.  This phase of the program will also ensure that Patients and their families receive information and orientation regarding rights and the procedures available for reviewing and resolving alleged rights violations.


To administer a department wide rights and advocacy program to ensure the rights of persons receiving services.


Programs will operate with a human rights agenda which promotes and protects the rights of persons in the service system.


  • Every person will be treated with respect and dignity
  • Every person’s problem is important and deserves full attention
  • Every person who requests assistance will be given some measure of satisfaction or relevant information 

Patient’s Rights

The Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center is committed to support and promote Patient Rights, as these are essential for the effectiveness of the therapeutic process.  Patients have the right:

  1. To be treated in a fair and courteous manner.
  2. To be protected from acts of neglect, humiliation, threat, financial or any other form of exploitation.
  3. To be protected from physical and sexual abuse, any form of harassment and physical punishment.
  4. To receive treatment that is responsive to their age, gender, race and cultural orientation, sexual orientation, religion, social supports, psychological characteristics, physical or mental disability or veteran status.
  5. To confidentiality and privacy with the following exceptions:
    1. When the patient or his/her guardian consents to the disclosure of information.
    2. When the patient becomes a threat to his or her safety or the safety of others.
    3. In the event that a judge determines the disclosure of information is necessary for a legal process.
    4. When it is necessary to cooperate with law enforcement, health, welfare and other state or federal agencies.
    5. When advocating for the well-being of a patient or his family.
    6. For research conducted or authorized by the Department or the Commission of Mental Health and with the patient’s consent.
  6. In these circumstances the disclosure of information will include pertinent data, whether in the medical record or discussed with the therapist.
  7. To receive the necessary information regarding their diagnosis and treatment in a manner that is easy to understand, that helps them make the most appropriate decisions about consent or rejection of treatment, and about choices of treatment.  The exception is, in case of emergencies, when consent is not required to provide services due to the special conditions surrounding the provision of these services.
  8. To be actively involved in all aspects of their plan of care; to select the goals of treatment and development the plan in a way that meets their expectations and that is relevant to their age, culture, development and particular problems, and at the same time promotes their integration in the society.
  9. To receive effective and efficient services from qualified clinicians credentialed according to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health standards and to know the names of the members of their treatment team.
  10. To receive services in a safe, healthy and comfortable environment.
  11. To be advised of any research projects, conducted or supported by the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center that may directly address their treatment and to accept or reject participation in any research project.
  12. To be informed of any possible billable services and respective charges to include billable services on behalf of the patient that may occur in their absence.
  13. To request assistance in developing advance psychiatric directives.
  14. To request a copy of the Ethical Standards and Code of Conduct of the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center.
  15. To question or present a complaint about the clinical practices or procedures of the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center and access advocacy services as necessary.
  16. To receive assistance in accessing the services of guardians, custodians and legal advocates as necessary and available.
  17. To be referred to other services in the community including self-help groups as needed and available.

Patients’ Responsibilities

Quality services depend on the close cooperation and collaboration of patients and staff, with the patient assisting the staff in meeting their needs.  The responsibilities of the patients are:

  1. To provide accurate information about their problems, needs, behaviors, medical problems and treatment.
  2. To inform their therapists about advance psychiatric directives.
  3. To inform their therapist about any medications they are taking including medications prescribed by a physician, bought over-the-counter, or natural/herbal remedies.
  4. To actively participate in treatment by developing their plan of care with their therapist and by letting the therapist know about how effective the treatment is in helping them solve their problems.
  5. To inform their therapist about any needs they have that may interfere with their treatment.
  6. To follow and comply with treatment recommendations including taking medications as prescribed, doing therapeutic homework, acting on referrals, and keeping appointments.
  7. To cancel their appointments as soon as they know they will not be able to keep them.
  8. To respect the privacy, rights and property of other patients of the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center.
  9. To respect the properties and facilities of the Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center.
  10. To share their opinions with the administration of the Center about the quality of services received.
  11. To ensure their bills are paid in a timely manner and to inform their therapists immediately if there is a problem with a bill.

Grievance Procedures

There are four steps that a Patient may follow to request a review of a situation where he or she feels that one or more rights were violated by a staff member or Center procedure.  Requests can be initiated by either the Patient or anyone acting on his or her behalf.  These can be submitted in writing by the Patient or by the person acting on his or her behalf, with or without the assistance of the Center’s Patient Advocate, by telephone, or personally.  The procedures for a grievance will follow the same steps whether in writing or verbally.

  1. Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center Patient Advocate:  The Patient can request a review of the situation by addressing his or her concerns to the Center’s Patient advocate at 803.641.7700.  The Patient Advocate is responsible for initiating a review of the issues with the Patient and any involved staff in an effort to resolve the issues.  The Patient Advocate will receive the request, if verbal, and will ask the Patient if he or she wants to present it in writing.  If the Patient wishes to do so, the Patient Advocate will take the information and complete a “Request for Review” form including a remedial action report and will mail it to the Patient.  At no time will there be any retaliation or barriers to services taken toward the Patient.  Once the review has been completed the Patient will be notified in writing within two (2) business days. If the situation is not resolved within two (2) normal business days from the time the report was taken, or if the Patient is not satisfied with how the situation was resolved, the Patient or the person acting on his or her behalf may request a review of the situation at the next level.
  2. Aiken-Barnwell Mental Health Center Executive Director:  If the solution presented by the Center’s Patient Advocate is not satisfactory to the Patient or the person acting on his or her behalf, the Patient or this person may request a review with the Center’s Executive Director, who is expected to complete a remedial action report within five normal business days of the day the complaint was presented and will notify the Patient in writing.
  3. South Carolina Department of Mental Health Office of Patient Advocacy:  If the solution or recommendation received by the Center’s Executive Director is still not favorable to the Patient, he or she, or the person acting on his behalf may contact the Department of Mental Health Patient Advocate in Columbia, who will initiate a review of the issue within five working days of receiving a request for review from the Patient or the person acting on his or her behalf.  A written response will be sent at the end of the five (5) working days if not sooner.  The Patient Advocate may be reached at 803.898.8570 or at 2414 Bull Street, Department of Mental Health, Administration Building in Columbia, SC.
  4. State Director of Mental Health:  If the review and remedial action suggested by the Department of Mental Health Advocacy Office are not satisfactory to the Patient, he or she or a person acting on his or her behalf may request a review from the State Director of Mental Health, who will make the final decision on all the issues not resolved at other levels of the review process.  The State Director may be reached at 803.898.8319, or at 2414 Bull Street, Department of Mental Health, Administration Building in Columbia, SC. The State Director of Mental Health may take up to ten (10) business days to review the situation and respond to the Patient in writing.

Links to Advocacy organizations: