CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – South Carolina lawmakers say that the topic of mental health has been largely neglected in the Statehouse for two reasons: a lack of funding and a lack of representation.
Senator Marlon Kimpson noted that the Department of Mental Health is just now returning to levels of funding not seen since before the 2008 recession.
Likewise, Kimpson says there are no political action committees or powerful entities lobbying on behalf of those with mental illness.
He wants to make the voices of those with mental illness heard in the South Carolina legislature. An issue leaders believe is even more critical after Jamal Sutherland — a patient at Palmetto Behavioral Health — was taken to jail during a mental episode and died at the hands of detention center deputies.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says that there have been 21 complaints filed against that facility in the past five years. State Representative J. Todd Rutherford says that is a big problem:
“We regulate everything down to mobile haircuts, so certainly we should be looking into a facility that has had 21 problems.”
Kimpson believes that with the majority of DHEC resources focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, other oversight requirements have taken a back seat.