Mental Health agency provides multiple “access points” for people who need help


Mental health services for the seven-county region that includes Laurens County are forging a partnership with Presbyterian College’s newest program.

PC is bringing on-line in the coming year a Physician Assistant Program, and training through the clinics of the Beckman Center for Mental Health could be a component of that advanced medical training.

Joe Weber, the founding director and associate professor of the program, attended the May 18 regional forum at Beckman’s Greenwood headquarters. The initial class, he said, had 135 applicants for 28 seats in the PA program.

State mental health officials and regional directors, clinicians and board members attended the conference, along with some of the area’s state lawmakers.

The Beckman Center for Mental Health Services manages the largest geographic area of any mental health headquarters in South Carolina.

State Director John Magill asked Beckman to host the first of this year’s Department of Mental Health regional forums. Clinic directors and counselors provided an overview of the state and region’s wide-ranging mental health services.

“You get to hear some of the fine work done at the centers,” Magill said in opening remarks. “This was the first center I visited in the late 1960s when I worked at the state hospital. The state Department of Mental Health began in the 1820s, and now we have hospitals, nursing homes and community centers. We see 4,600 patients a year through Beckman.”

There are more than 254,000 people in the seven counties that Beckman serves, and the center and clinics have experienced an 18% increase in patients seen this year. There are 62 locations in the Beckman region where a patient (adults, teens and children) can enter into mental health services.

School-based services work with children at play and with parents through reflection and listening. Working with teens is a major component of Beckman’s services, said Koshay Arnold, who discussed multi-systemic therapy.

“Parents have access all the time to a therapist or someone on the therapy team,” she said. It costs $241 a day for a teen to be incarcerated, she said, and when released, the teen goes right back to his/her same environment, violates probation and is sent back for incarceration. Breaking that cycle is the goal of mental health counselors and others working on juvenile delinquency issues, she said.

Arnold also works with the Beckman disaster preparedness plan, which has trained counselors ready to drop everything and go to the sites of natural and man-made disasters. This is a Centers for Medicaid and Medicare federal requirements, and FEMA handles training for a team of 20 professionals and the schools staffs (FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency).

Mental health clients receive assistance with getting back on their feet and adjusting to daily life through the community support services program. There is a rental assistance component, designed for people to “cycle in briefly, get on solid ground and get on with their lives,” according the Greg Ross, who works with the program.

Clients also can join advisory committees to help clinics tap into concerns that the staff might not see among the people accessing service. The quarterly meetings are chance to “identify needs and make sure their voices are heard,” Ross said.

South Carolina also operates one of the largest tele-psychiatry systems in the nation, Magill said. Last year, there were 63,000 treatments and evaluations using Skype-like face-to-face meetings between clients and counselors, he said.

Magill said there is a program under study to embed a clinician in police stations. 

In addition to its Presbyterian College partnership, Beckman is aligned with the Lakelands Rural Health Network and the Lakelands Behavioral Access Network, and has an embedded clinician at GHS Laurens County Memorial Hospital. 


(Vic MacDonald, the Editor of The Clinton Chronicle, is a member of the Beckman Mental Health Center board, representing Laurens County and appointed by former Gov. Haley in Sept., 2015.) 




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