South Carolina Department of Mental Health

South Carolina Department of Mental Health
2414 Bull Street/P.O. Box 485, Columbia, SC 29202

July 24, 2012

Contact:  SCDMH Office of Public Affairs
Phone: (803) 898-8581

Duke Endowment Grants $1 Million to Mental Health for Telepsychiatry

Columbia, SC - In June, the Trustees of The Duke Endowment approved a grant of $1 Million to the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) to continue and expand the Telepsychiatry Consultation Program in South Carolina.

To meet the critical shortage of psychiatrists in South Carolina's underserved areas, and assist hospital emergency rooms in providing appropriate treatment to persons in a behavioral crisis, SCDMH utilizes real-time, state-of-the-art video-and-voice technology that connects SCDMH psychiatrists to hospital emergency departments throughout South Carolina, 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Hospital emergency department consultations with SCDMH psychiatrists have increased the quality and timeliness of triage, assessment and initial treatment of patients; reduced many individuals length of stay in emergency departments; and allowed participating hospitals to direct critical personnel and financial resources to other needs; thus, realizing financial savings for hospitals.

An ongoing study of the Program's impact on medical costs by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine determined that there was an overall medical cost savings of at least $1,000 per episode of care for patients receiving a SCDMH telepsychiatry consultation. Another finding of the ongoing study is that patients discharged following a SCDMH telepsychiatry consultation had a significantly higher rate of accessing mental health aftercare in the community; thereby, reducing their risk of readmission to an emergency department.

Since March 29, 2009, SCDMH has completed more than 11,800 telepsychiatry consultations with hospital emergency departments. The SCDMH Telepsychiatry Consultation Program currently provides comprehensive consultations to 22 SC hospital emergency departments. Six additional hospitals will be added in the next 60 days.

This innovative statewide program is made possible through a series of grants from The Duke Endowment, headquartered in Charlotte, NC. In addition to the support of The Duke Endowment, SCDMH is assisted in the program by the SC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the USC School of Medicine. This year SCDMH also received funding to support the Program from the General Assembly and participating hospitals.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health's mission is to support the recovery of people with mental illnesses, giving priority to adults with serious and persistent mental illness and to children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances. The Agency serves approximately 100,000 citizens with mental illnesses, including more than 30,000 children and adolescents, and provides outpatient services through a network of seventeen community mental health centers and numerous clinics. It also operates four hospitals, one community nursing care center, and three veterans' nursing homes.

The Duke Endowment, in Charlotte, N.C., seeks to fulfill the legacy of James B. Duke by enriching lives and communities in the Carolinas through higher education, health care, rural churches and children's services. Since its inception in 1924, the Endowment has awarded nearly $2.9 billion in grants.