Mark W. Binkley, JD
Mark W. Binkley, JD

Published in The State newspaper on 02/05/2020

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health is charged by law to provide statewide services to treat, reduce, and prevent mental illness. Our goal is to provide the right treatment to allow citizens with mental illness to live their lives in the least restrictive environment — and that includes keeping people out of the hospital unless hospital care is needed.

Like any other illness the earlier mental health disorders are identified and treated, the better. Our department has programs like school mental health, young adult and First Episode services to address concerns early on — and our suicide prevention education initiative is also designed to serve that purpose.

Our department also provides outpatient treatment through 16 community mental health centers, which serve all 46 counties in South Carolina. Each center and its clinics have walk-in appointments, individual, group and family therapy and other treatment programs. To encourage patients to remain in treatment, our department has peer support services so patients can relate to others with their same diagnoses.

In any medical crisis providing quick care is vital to preventing lasting harm. That’s why our department has recently completed our community crisis response and intervention program; it is available statewide around the clock by calling (833) 364-2274.

The fact is that most people who live with mental illnesses can recover and thrive with outpatient treatment.

One encouraging example is that of Laneir, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he first arrived at the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center. The center had little information on Laneir’s background because his mental state had deteriorated to the point where his words were jumbled and it was impossible to understand him.

The center’s treatment team worked to find a medication regimen that might help Laneir, but for some time he made little improvement or had setbacks when he did show promising signs. Nevertheless, Laneir’s treatment team continued to work on helping him find his way back — and gradually he began improvement that became so noticeable that Laneir’s clinical team described his progress as “truly remarkable.”

Laneir eventually became coherent, alert and talkative — and he began to remember and share more details about his past. Eventually Laneir was able to find work, become active in his community and connect with family members he had lost touch with years ago. Today Laneir continues to work hard on his treatment; he has an incredibly positive outlook on life and he’s thankful for the new opportunities he’s been given.

His story is a remarkable one, and it shows how mental health treatment can help to improve lives.

Mark Binkley is the interim state director of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health.

(Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles in The State supporting mental health awareness.)