SC Department of Mental Health News Release

October 30, 2002
For Immediate Release
Contact: SCDMH John Hutto 803-898-8584
SCDAODAS John Hart (803) 896-6000
SCHA Jim Head (803) 796-3080


Behavioral Health Conference Focuses on Community Solutions

Columbia, SC – With over 250 public and private psychiatric hospital beds having closed in South Carolina over the past few years, state healthcare leaders know that jails and local emergency rooms are fast becoming the crisis programs for people suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse or an addiction disorder (co-occurring disorder).

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Illness, within the last twelve months, 28.8 percent of the general population ages 15-54 had a concurrent mental illness and substance abuse disorder. Further, within the last twelve months, 14.7 percent of people with a mental illness also had a current substance abuse disorder, and 42.7 percent of people with a current substance abuse disorder also had a current mental illness.

To find ways to serve these South Carolinians more effectively, over 200 mental health and substance abuse clinicians, hospital administrators, law enforcement officers, members of the judiciary and others met October 28-29, 2002, in Greenville, SC, to explore how public and private service providers can work as teams to provide community-based services to citizens with co-occurring disorders.

Leaders from the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH), the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (SCDAODAS), and the South Carolina Hospital Association (SCHA) challenged teams of community stakeholders to submit proposals to develop new programs or expand existing programs that serve clients with co-occurring disorders, particularly related to crisis stabilization.

Initial funding for these programs is made possible by $500,000 in grants from SCDMH.

Said SCDMH State Director George P. Gintoli, "The DMH, DAODAS, and the SCHA are partnering to lead in the design of systems of care for South Carolina. We need to prioritize our activities and focus our collaborative efforts on the issues in the emergency rooms and jails in our state. Local planning in our communities needs to intensify, and all stakeholders need to be part of the solution."

At the conference, sixteen work groups drawn from all corners of South Carolina developed plans of action to identify how they can help solve the problems of providing services to people with co-occurring disorders and relieve pressures in jails and emergency rooms. Common themes emerged from the community groups:

  • Establishment of mental health and addictions services for around-the-clock availability;
  • Development of community-based crisis beds;
  • Development of Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams;
  • Development of 23-hour observation programs;
  • Formation of public-private partnerships;
  • Formation of partnerships with primary healthcare organizations;
  • Providing cross-training for law enforcement, mental health and addictions professionals;
  • Establishment of mental health and drug courts;
  • Establishment of sobering centers;
  • Improved communication between all stakeholders;
  • Identification of needed resources including funding.

Said SCDAODAS Interim Director Wendell Price, "Both DAODAS and DMH agree that we need to strengthen crisis intervention and stabilization services at the local level. The plans that are being developed as a result of this conference will be community-based and outcomes driven, particularly in addressing the problems of over crowding in our emergency rooms and jails."

Office of Communications
P.O. Box 485
Columbia, SC 29202
(803) 898-8581

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