News Release: Mental Health State Director John H. Magill Retires, Interim Director Appointed

South Carolina Department of Mental Health State Director John H. Magill retires January 11, 2019, having led the Agency since his appointment by the South Carolina Mental Health Commission in September 2006. Magill, currently the longest serving State mental health director in America, announced his retirement in the spring, but agreed to serve until the end of 2018 to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

During Magill’s tenure, SCDMH saw many changes; some of the most notable include the following:

  • During the course of the Great Recession from 2008 to 2012, the Agency’s State funding was reduced by almost 40%. During those years, the SCDMH’s community mental health centers and psychiatric hospitals reduced staff and services, but continued to provide needed mental health treatment to adults with major psychiatric disorders and children with serious emotional disturbances, regardless of ability to pay.
  • Since the end of the Recession, the Department’s hospitals have increased capacity, and its community mental health centers have expanded services. SCDMH community mental health services now exceed pre-Recession levels.
  • In 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis, SCDMH used grant funding from The Duke Endowment to launch its nationally acclaimed Emergency Department Telepsychiatry program.
    • Developed to meet the critical shortage of psychiatrists in South Carolina’s underserved areas, and assist hospital emergency rooms by providing appropriate treatment to persons in a psychiatric crisis, the program employs state-of-the-art telehealth technology to connect SCDMH psychiatrists to hospital emergency departments throughout the State.
    • Built on the success of its telepsychiatry services to emergency departments, SCDMH equipped its hospitals, mental health centers, and clinics to provide psychiatric treatment services to its patients via telepsychiatry. Since 2013, the Community Telepsychiatry Program has provided more than 50,000 psychiatric treatment services to SCDMH patients throughout South Carolina. Currently, more than 20% of all community mental health center patient/psychiatrist appointments are accomplished using telepsychiatry.
    • The combined total of more than 106,000 telehealth services makes SCDMH the largest provider of telehealth services by volume in South Carolina.
  • Despite the Recession, which caused the collapse of the commercial real estate market, SCDMH succeeded in completing an agreement in 2010 providing for the gradual sale of the former State Hospital campus (the "Bull Street Property") – for a price in excess of the property’s appraised value. The sale is regarded as one of the most significant land transactions in the history of the City of Columbia. To date, SCDMH has transferred ownership of more than 80% of the Bull Street Property, and is using the proceeds from the sale of the Property to expand the number of its supported housing units for patients.
  • SCDMH School Mental Health Services, which helps to identify and provide early treatment to children experiencing psychiatric and emotional health issues, has also grown substantially since the Recession. In partnership with school districts, the Agency now has out-stationed therapists in more than 730 SC schools, more than 50% of all public schools in South Carolina. SCDMH and the South Carolina Department of Education have established an ambitious goal to make school mental health services available in every South Carolina public school by 2022.
  • Responding to the alarming increase in suicides nationally and in South Carolina, SCDMH sought and received two major grants to help raise awareness and provide education in schools, churches and other community organizations about suicide prevention. In partnership with many other public and private entities, SCDMH is also helping to increase the ability of organizations and professionals to provide coordinated, responsive, effective, and rapid follow-up to those who have attempted suicide and those who are assessed as being at risk.
    • In 2016, SCDMH collaborated with the SC chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health America to form the South Carolina Suicide Prevention Coalition with the goal of developing a State plan to address suicide prevention. The Coalition, chaired by Magill, comprises lawmakers and leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The Coalition recently completed and issued its Suicide Prevention Plan for South Carolina.

SCDMH also operates South Carolina’s three state veterans’ nursing homes. Anticipating a growing veteran population, and with the support of the General Assembly and the US Veterans Administration, SCDMH is planning the construction of three additional state veterans’ nursing homes, to be located in Florence, Richland, and Cherokee counties.

A strong supporter of the military, in 2008 Magill oversaw the creation of the State’s Veterans Policy Academy (VPA), and was its first Chair. The mission of the VPA is to support returning troops by identifying needed services and making those services accessible. The VPA has grown to be an important resource that helps to link South Carolina veterans and their families to needed community services.

"It has been one of my life’s greatest honors to lead the South Carolina Department of Mental Health," Magill stated. "The men and women of this agency care as deeply as I do about the mission to help citizens with mental illness get the treatment they need to recover and lead meaningful lives."

"I can’t say enough about what an outstanding state director John Magill has been," said Mental Health Commission Chair Alison Evans, PsyD. "He combines decades of experience with the foresight to pursue innovative methods to deliver mental health care. He has also been able to share his passion for improving mental health services to create partnerships to better serve patients."

The Mental Health Commission has begun the search for a permanent state director; it has named Mark W. Binkley, JD, to serve as interim state director upon Magill’s retirement. Binkley served as the agency’s General Counsel for 16 years, and more recently was its Deputy Director overseeing the Division of Administrative Services.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s mission is to support the recovery of people with mental illnesses, giving priority to adults with serious and persistent mental illness and to children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances. The Agency serves approximately 100,000 citizens with mental illnesses, approximately 30,000 of whom are children and adolescents, and provides outpatient services through a network of seventeen community mental health centers and numerous clinics. It also operates multiple inpatient hospitals, including one for substance use treatment, one community nursing care center, and three veterans’ nursing homes.


January 8, 2019
Contact: Tracy LaPointe Phone: (803) 898-8582