SC Department of Mental Health News Release


SCDMH Program Receives National Recognition

Contact John Hutto (803) 898-8581

Columbia, S.C., December 8, 1998... The South Carolina Department of Mental Health's (SCDMH) telepsychiatry  program has been recognized among the top 10 telemedicine programs in the United States, according to the December 1998 issue of Telehealth Magazine. Telemedicine involves using computer-based video systems.

Both public and private programs were evaluated on five criteria: the programs' meeting a defined clinical or healthcare need; being either self-supporting or sustainable without public grant funding; demonstrating their organizations' financial, administrative, and management support; receiving acceptance by physicians, healthcare providers, and consumers; and being monitored and evaluated for activities, costs, and outcomes.

According to Ed Spencer, SCDMH telepsychiatry coordinator, the agency's implementation of the new technology arose out of the need to provide deaf and hard of hearing consumers with increased access to psychiatric services in a more cost-effective manner.

"Before the advent of this new technology, our only psychiatrist capable of using American Sign Language was spending more time in her car traveling across the state to meet with consumers than she was in providing service," he said.  "Now, she provides more care without having to leave her office.  We are saving taxpayer money and seeing more people as well."

The SCDMH is installing video conferencing systems in all of its 17 community mental health centers and six inpatient facilities.

For more information about this innovative use of technology, please call Ed Spencer at 803-898-8579 or e-mail him at

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