Guest Columnist Melanie Ferretti, Community Relations Coordinator
On September 12, 2013, State Director John H. Magill facilitated a community forum at G. Werber Bryan Psychiatric Hospital, completing a three-year project. The Bryan event was the last of 50 community forums held around the state: two at each of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health's (DMH) 17 mental health centers, four hospitals, and four nursing homes. Magill began these forums in 2010. More than 2,700 people attended the forums, sharing ideas and making their voices heard, and as a result, DMH has created, implemented, and continues to monitor action plans addressing issues raised. Special thanks go to all the legislators and other guest speakers who helped make each forum unique.
In his continued effort to bring mental health issues into the public eye, Magill has begun a new initiative, speaking with civic organizations and meeting with newspaper editorial review boards around the state. By addressing groups such as Rotaries, Civitans, Lions Clubs, and others Magill aims to share some of the history and scope of DMH, discuss hot topics in the behavioral health arena and boost support and understanding for those with mental illness.
Since May, Magill has addressed Rotary Clubs in Florence, Murrell's Inlet, Goose Creek, Spartanburg, Beaufort, Bluffton, Sumter, Greenwood, Clemson, Easley, Hilton Head Island; the Rock Hill Kiwanis Club, the Greenwood Lions Club, and the Charleston Exchange Club. He is currently scheduled to speak with Rotary Clubs in Anderson, Myrtle Beach, Cheraw, Bennettsville, Camden, Aiken, and Columbia. In addition, Magill has met or is scheduled to meet with editorial review boards of the Florence Morning News, the Myrtle Beach Sun News, the Rock Hill Herald, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, the Edgefield Advertiser, The Item, and The Index-Journal, the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette, the Georgetown Times, and The Anderson Independent Mail.
South Carolina has a rich history of support and compassion for those with mental illness. In 1821, the General Assembly commissioned architect Robert Mills, renowned for his design of the Washington Monument, to design a building expressly for the care and treatment of people with mental illness. The Mills Building opened its doors to its first patient in 1828. Since then, DMH has treated approximately four million South Carolinians: one million in its inpatient facilities (hospitals and nursing homes) and three million in its outpatient centers and clinics.
Like most state agencies, DMH has experienced significant budget cuts over the past several years. DMH has adapted by streamlining its services, increasing staff productivity, and taking advantage of new opportunities and technology.
For example, in 2007, Magill reached out to and received grant support from the Duke Endowment to develop an idea aimed at addressing the critical shortage of psychiatrists in South Carolina. The initiative, DMH's Emergency Department Telepsychiatry Consultation Program, connects DMH psychiatrists with patients in hospital emergency departments (ED) throughout South Carolina, 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, via state-of-the-art video-and-voice technology. To date, DMH has conducted more than 17,000 telespychiatry consultations, providing patients timely access to experienced, certified psychiatrists trained to diagnose behavioral issues and recommend treatment, placement or release. Patient length of stay in the ED is frequently reduced due to this innovative program, allowing hospitals to realize significant financial savings. An ongoing study by the University Of South Carolina School Of Medicine determined a cost savings of more than $1,500 per episode of care for patients receiving DMH telepsychiatry consultations. South Carolina's telepsychiatry program has received national acclaim and serves as a model in other States.
Few people realize that, in addition to DMH's 17 mental health centers, four hospitals, and four nursing homes, DMH also operates two legislatively mandated programs: a Forensic Hospital Unit and a Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program. The Forensic Unit is a secure facility for those who have been determined incompetent to stand trial for crimes they have committed. The Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program is a civil commitment program for sex offenders who have served their prison sentences but are mandated by the courts to remain in custody because they have been determined to be a serious threat to public safety. Because more individuals are admitted than released, both of these programs continue to grow at a steady rate.
DMH earns more than 50% of its operating budget providing therapeutic services via Medicaid and other sources of reimbursement; as such, when DMH's budget is cut, so is its earning potential. DMH patients don't disappear if mental health services and treatment are not provided; some wind up in other systems instead. For example, hospital emergency rooms see more patients presenting with mental illness, and law enforcement officers and the Department of Corrections are increasingly impacted at a rate in direct correlation to reduced mental health services. These systems are often ill equipped to meet demands. It is going to take collaborative efforts within the community, both public and private, to meet the mental health care needs of South Carolina's citizens. Fortunately, State Appropriations allocated for DMH increased both last year and this fiscal year thanks to support from the General Assembly and Governor Nikki Haley.
These are a few of the current issues Magill discusses when addressing civic organizations and editorial review boards. If you are interested in having Mr. Magill address your civic organization or editorial review board, please contact Melanie Ferretti at (803) 898-7659 or email@example.com. If we are unable to schedule an engagement with Magill, the DMH Speakers' Bureau also addresses a wide variety of mental health care topics.
November 22, 2013
Brief biography of
John H. Magill
South Carolina Department of Mental Health
- Magill began working at the Department of Mental Health in the late 1960's.
- In 1977, he became the Georgia state director for Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
- He was the Founding Chief Executive Officer of Fenwick Hall Hospital in 1980.
- He is currently a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at both M.U.S.C. and U.S.C.
- He's served as the state director of the Department of Mental Health since 2006.
- In 2010, Mr. Magill was presented the Governor's award: the Order of the Palmetto.