South Carolina Department of Mental Health

Director’s Column

John H. Magill, State Director

State Director Magill Rallies Support
for Mental Health Care

For the past several years, South Carolina Department of Mental Health (DMH) State Director John H. Magill has rallied support for improved mental health services by pursuing the following public relations initiatives:

FY13: Civic Organizations and Editorial Review Boards

Magill is scheduled to speak with 29 civic organizations. He has addressed over 1,500 members of 26 civic clubs across the state and is booked at three more.

Since January 2013, the State Director has addressed Rotary clubs in Orangeburg, Florence, Murrell's Inlet, Goose Creek, Spartanburg, Beaufort, Bluffton, Sumter, Greenwood, Clemson, Easley, Hilton Head Island, Anderson, Camden, Myrtle Beach, Cheraw, Bennettsville, Aiken; the Rock Hill Kiwanis Club; the Greenwood Lions Club; and the Charleston Exchange Club. He is scheduled to speak with Rotary clubs in Lancaster and Columbia.

Further, Magill has talked with the editorial review boards and/or reporters of 10 South Carolina newspapers: The Florence Morning News, The Myrtle Beach Sun News, TheRock Hill Herald, The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, The Edgefield Advertiser, The (Sumter) Item, The (Greenwood) Index-Journal, The (Hilton Head) Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette, The Georgetown Times, and The Anderson Independent Mail.

Additionally, as part of this initiative, Magill has given a radio interview and two television interviews, met with eight legislators, a legislative staffer, and administrators of 14 hospitals, one medical school, and three alcohol and drug abuse treatment facilities.

A question and answer segment is included during each event to keep discussion open and track community concerns.

FYs 10 and FY12: Community Forums

Magill facilitated 50 community forums held around the state: two at each of DMH’s 17 mental health centers, four hospitals, and four nursing homes. Since 2010, more than 2,700 people attended the forums, sharing ideas and making their voices heard, and, as a result, DMH has created, implemented, and continues to monitor action plans addressing issues raised at these events.

FY11: Profiles

27 separate profiles have been produced. 25 of the profiles spotlight the services and staff at each of the agency’s treatment facilities: the 17 DMH community mental health centers, its four hospitals and its four nursing homes. 2 additional profiles feature members of the DMH Mental Health Commission, and the directors of each of the State’s Mental Health advocacy groups. The documents concisely highlight the important services the agency provides, and some of the many dedicated people that make effective services possible. Magill personally conducted the 209 interviews featured. The profiles can be found online at http://www.state.sc.us/dmh/profiles/profiles.html.

You may wonder why public relations efforts are important to a state agency. Consider that increased public awareness of the scope and importance of mental health services usually translates to increased public support for the availability of mental health services.

DMH’s State budget allocations were severely cut between 2008 and 2012. DMH earns more than 50% of its operating budget by providing therapeutic services via Medicaid and other sources of reimbursement; as such, when DMH's State budget is cut, so is its earning potential and its overall ability to provide needed services. It is our hope that members of the community will be moved to express their desire for appropriate and adequate funding amounts for DMH, and legislators will listen and act accordingly.

When adequate public mental health treatment services are not available, individuals with untreated or undertreated psychiatric disorders frequently wind up in other taxpayer funded systems. For example, homelessness increases, hospital emergency rooms see more patients presenting with mental illness, and law enforcement officers, county jails and the Department of Corrections are increasingly impacted at a rate in direct correlation to reduced mental health services. These systems are expensive and often ill-equipped to meet demands.

Treatment works and recovery is possible. By providing mental health care, DMH helps vulnerable citizens improve the quality of their lives. Providing mental health treatment and related support services is both the most humane and fiscally responsible course of action for the State.

Moreover, increased public awareness about the agency’s services helps those in need of services gain access to needed care. Everyone is affected by mental illness in one way or another, because one-in-four people are diagnosed with mental illness at some point in their lives. Most people don’t think about mental health care until they or a family member or friend are diagnosed with mental illness; at that point, the ability to access services and treatment becomes vitally important.

According to Magill, “Cooperation and collaboration are vital to future success. It will take more collaborative efforts within the community, both public and private, to meet the mental health care needs of South Carolina's citizens.”


Guest Columnist Melanie Ferretti, Community Relations Coordinator
March 4, 2014