Mental Health is not just somebody else’s problem. Realistically, we will all either experience or be impacted by a friend or family member experiencing a mental health crisis such as depression, anxiety, addictions, or even suicide. Between 1999-2016, the suicide rate in South Carolina increased by 38%, more than any other state in the Southeast. Suicide is impacting our personal lives, our workforce, our healthcare system, and our schools. My own young children have already tragically lost 2 classmates to suicide.
During the Great Recession, South Carolina responded to the budget crisis by making drastic cuts to psychiatric care. Instead of dedicating funding to this issue when the recession was over, our state continued to ignore the problem. We are now ranked 44th in the nation for mental health care. That is shameful.
Here’s the thing. When the inpatient psychiatric beds closed down, those patients didn’t disappear. Those patients just went to different places. Mostly to our emergency departments and prisons. That is unethical. South Carolina is not providing adequate mental health care to our patients. Instead we are giving them inadequate care…and it is the most expensive type of care on the planet. It is a lose lose situation for everybody.
It is time that we stop burying our heads in the sand. South Carolina must dedicate funding to mental health. I support the following initiatives:
- Funding to restore short term Inpatient Psychiatric Beds for patients in crisis
- Incentives to hospital systems that create outpatient care coordination programs for mental health patients
- Expanded telepsychiatry programs to include more primary care offices
- Statewide on-line database for Inpatient Psychiatric Beds to show bed availability in real time to healthcare providers.
- Mental health education in our schools
- Child access prevention laws to reduce the number of guns in the hands of our children.