$9M in state funding pays for 30,000-square-foot regional center, opening in August

Article and photography by BRUCE MILLS
The Sumter Item Posted 

Jeffrey Ham pulled from both a well-known Bible verse and a famous song in describing the new day it is now for his regional mental health service agency with the grand opening of a new $9 million facility in Sumter on Thursday night.

"To Santee-Wateree Community Mental Health Center: This is your season," Ham said, to serve the community with a renewed commitment of excellence, to celebrate its mission to support the recovery of individuals with mental illness and also celebrate the opening of two new buildings at 801 N. Pike West.

Area lawmakers, local philanthropists and state department officials also participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Thursday's event.

Ham has been the regional community mental health center's executive director since October of last year.

The two new state-of-the-art facilities include a 30,000-square-foot regional center, which will house the new Sumter County Mental Health Clinic, and a separate 3,400-square-foot training center, where employee and community training and events will take place.

The new regional center and Sumter clinic - expected to be fully operational Aug. 20 - will house about 55 staff who are currently split between three buildings in and around the downtown area. Staff outgrew the current, main facility - at 215 N. Magnolia St. and built in the early 1970s - years ago, according to officials.

The agency provides counseling and medication management outpatient services for adults, children and families, according to Ham. He said he thinks the new facility will allow the agency to expand its services to Sumter County residents.

The regional agency, which now has separate clinics in Sumter, Clarendon, Lee and Kershaw counties, originally opened more than 50 years ago in 1964.

State Department of Mental Health Director John Magill, also on hand Thursday, said initially in the 1960s the regional agency served 100 to 125 people per year.

Through its early years, it developed an outstanding reputation, Magill said, and "was considered one of the jewels in the entire state department of mental health system."

Now, it provides clinical services to about 6,000 patients a year with its four regional clinics.

The main Sumter facility has always had innovative clinical programs, but more opportunities are available with the new state-of-the-art facility, Magill said.

"The Sumter center has done good work over the years," he said, "but I think the opportunity is there for it to once again become a jewel of the state system."

Ham and Magill thanked state Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, and the Sumter County Legislative Delegation for securing the $9 million in state funding for the new center.

In his comments, Smith said center officials came to him about seven years ago with the idea for a new expanded facility. He said having the new facility will be inviting to people seeking treatment and will ultimately help improve the quality of life in Sumter County and the area.

"Having a robust and available mental health system that allows access to individuals is something that will serve this community for decades to come," Smith said.

A $700,000 donation from the Logan Foundation, established locally in 1973, paid for the construction of the adjacent training center and is named the Myrtis Logan Training and Conference Center.

Myrtis Julia Baker Logan was an active member of the Sumter community for decades. Some of Logan's biggest contributions to the community were through the state Mental Health Association, where she served as president and state coordinator for volunteer services. In that capacity, she established a social club for patients released from the state mental hospital.

An estimated 200 people attended Thursday's event. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, center staff members took guests on tours of the new 30,000-square-foot facility.


Officials and dignitaries who participated in the July 19, 2018 ribbon cutting ceremony were state Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, Sumter County Councilman Eugene Baten, Santee-Wateree Community Mental Health Center Board Chair Sylvia Christian-James, center executive director Jeffery Ham, center board members Catherine Harris, Lawrence Graham, Mary Alice Ipock, and State Director John H. Magill.