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South Carolina lawmakers could consider measure to combine health agencies

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(The Center Square) — South Carolina lawmakers could consider a measure to merge several state health agencies into a new, cabinet-level agency when they return to Columbia next month.

S.915 would merge the departments of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, Disabilities and Special Needs, Health and Human Services, Public Health, Mental Health and Aging into the new Executive Office of Health and Policy. It also places the Health and Policy secretary in the governor’s cabinet.

The state House and state Senate passed versions of the measure before the Legislature wrapped last week.

“The health care reorganization — that did not make it to conference [committee]; I wish it had,” Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said during a Monday media briefing. “That is a vital matter to the people of our state. There’s probably not a family in our state that has not experienced some need for mental health, disability, psychological or drug addiction [treatment] — all of the things that our various agencies handle but in no coordination.”

The governor cited a $5 million study “that concluded that the health agencies … in South Carolina are the most unorganized, the most fractured of any in the country.”

“That is not a good reputation to have,” McMaster said. “…That just won’t work.”

An April South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office estimate indicated the measure would carry some budget impacts, such as a one-time $10,000 expense for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs to change its name and logo. The estimate also revealed the bill could lead to additional “undetermined” expenditures.

“For the individuals opposing S. 915 – I truly hope they never have to deal with the stressful reality that is bouncing between our state health care agencies to secure services for a member of their family,” Americans for Prosperity-SC State Director Candace Carroll said in a post to X, formerly Twitter.

“It’s personal – like all health care should be,” Carroll added. “It prevents real patients with families like mine from falling through the cracks for services they depend on. And [it] has someone patients can hold accountable when, and if, they do.”

In a post to X, state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said that with his remarks, the governor showed “leadership on a public-healthcare reform bill … that brings accountability to agencies (DMH, DDSN, DAODAS) now run by healthcare bureaucrats who answer only to unelected boards, and improves services to those with physical and mental disabilities.”