South Carolina Department of Mental Health
2414 Bull Street, Columbia, SC 29202
News Release


July 8, 2009
Contact:   Mark Binkley

                  General Counsel
                  Phone: (803) 898-8557

Technology Helps South Carolina Department of Mental Health Establish
 Statewide Telepsychiatry Services and Improve Patient Care

Columbia, SC – The Duke Endowment is helping fund a psychiatric consultation program that will serve up to 65 urban and rural hospitals in their emergency departments. This program is a partnership involving SCDMH, the SC Hospital Association and the SC Department of Health and Human Services. With the expanded telepsychiatry program, a doctor from the SCDMH can consult quickly with the emergency departments. This telepsychiatry program allows for continued care and sustained recovery for the state’s patients, especially in rural and remote areas where they may not have immediate access to healthcare staff or facilities. As of June 8, 2009, the SCDMH has deployed six telepsychiatry video units with a plan to install up to another 59 over the next two years.

The interactive video and voice equipment allows both the psychiatrist and patient to speak freely while seeing each other on video screens. Local hospital physicians have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week to five on-call psychiatrists residing throughout the state. South Carolina is one of the few states going statewide with a video enhanced mental health consultation network. John H. Magill, Agency Director, also noted that the telemedicine program is adaptable during hard times. “This technology is going to help us continue to provide essential mental health services effectively and efficiently in spite of today’s tough economic environment and the continued challenge of decreasing public funding,” he said.

“The Duke Endowment recognizes this program as an innovative approach for increasing the availability of mental health care for citizens across South Carolina,” says Mary Piepenbring, Vice President of The Duke Endowment. “The South Carolina Department of Mental Health and the South Carolina Hospital Association are playing key roles in this important initiative and we applaud their innovation and commitment.”

According to Scott Parker, MD, Medical Director, Palmetto Health Baptist Easley, "We are excited to be the first hospital to join the S.C. Department of Mental Health and The Duke Endowment in this important patient care issue. Since we started using this innovative service, we have seen our consultation waiting period go down from days per patient to hours. Our emergency medicine physicians are very pleased with this project and the level of support they have received from psychiatric consultation. It’s important that mental health patients receive the right treatment in a timely manner. This program is helping make that happen." 

The SCDMH serves approximately 100,000 citizens including 33,000 children and adolescents with mental illnesses. The department provides outpatient services through a network of seventeen community mental health centers and numerous clinics. It also operates four psychiatric hospitals as well as three nursing centers, including two for veterans. Web site: