Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Post and Courier on mental health in the state:
South Carolina ranks 47th in the nation in providing resources to combat mental illness. That abysmal situation may be starting to change, but we have a long way to go.
The ranking comes from the latest annual Mental Health America report on The State of Mental Health in America. It is based on the percentage of the state's population - adults and children - who did not receive treatment for a mental illness because of an inability to pay or a lack of services.
The gap in available and affordable mental health care is underscored by the most recent South Carolina draft state health plan. It shows a shortage of 213 psychiatric beds throughout the state with a particularly acute need in the Charleston area.
The main reason for the shortage, according to Mark Binkley, acting director of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, is a shortage of doctors and nurses to staff the beds. The department routinely asks the governor and Legislature for funds to hire the needed personnel at market rates and is routinely denied.
So the Department of Mental Health is wisely directing its efforts to spreading the availability of primary mental health care throughout the state with assistance from the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the state's Medicaid program. The objective is to treat mental disorders when they first appear, a move that has been shown to reduce the number of cases that eventually require hospitalization.
Mr. Binkley has said that thanks to new resources the department has recently been able to make significant strides in its efforts to increase the crisis services provided by its 16 Mental Health Centers and in community services. This includes mobile crisis teams and community "crisis stabilization units" that require cooperation and local funding from community hospitals and law enforcement agencies.
The funding for the statewide expansion of mobile crisis services, known as Community Crisis Response and Intervention, was made possible with funds provided by Health and Human Services. The Legislature provided funds to help local communities form crisis stabilization units.
The Legislature this year also provided an extra $2 million to accelerate the deployment of mental health professionals throughout state public schools. About 60 percent of the state's schools now have a mental health professional on staff. The aim is to have complete coverage by the end of next year. These mental health workers can diagnose troubled children and help them and their families get care.
And the Legislature appropriated $4.4 million for an expansion of the Department of Mental Health's community housing program for patients at high risk of hospitalization. The community housing also provides beds for patients being discharged from long-term hospital care, making it possible to free up beds for more urgent cases.
Nevertheless, as Mr. Binkley said, even if the Department of Mental Health is successful in addressing mental health issues early and also finds ways to reduce the length of stay in its psychiatric hospitals, a growing state population will eventually require more psychiatric beds. It is time for the governor and state lawmakers to acknowledge the need for these critical resources and to provide them.
The Times and Democrat on competition to fight hunger:
Clemson and South Carolina football fans don't have to wait until the Nov. 30 annual rivalry game to be part of an important competition.
The universities are again facing off in the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series Food Drive in a coordinated effort to benefit Harvest Hope Food Bank and Golden Harvest Food Bank and tackle hunger in the state. The winner will be announced at the Carolina-Clemson game in Columbia on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
"We are proud to champion South Carolina's farmers who give so much to ensure fresh food for so many, and to join in the fight against hunger in South Carolina," Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said.
The university that raises the most donations in non-perishable foods by Nov. 22 will earn a point for their school toward the 2018-19 Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series standings. Collected food donations between the two schools will be measured in pounds, and money donated will be converted to a number of pounds via an equation used by Harvest Hope and Golden Harvest.
"In times of need, our state always comes together to help our neighbors. The Palmetto Series is a spirited way to provide hope around the dinner table regardless of what team you pull for on the field," said Wendy Broderick, Harvest Hope Food Bank CEO. "Thousands of South Carolinians will benefit thanks to the generosity of both Gamecock and Tiger fans!"
In South Carolina, one in six people struggle to find where the next meal will come from, and one in five children will go to bed hungry every night. By participating in the Palmetto Series Food Drive, Gamecock and Tiger fans alike will come together to fight the statewide battle of food insecurities and support Harvest Hope and Golden Harvest.
"Feeding the one in six local families who struggle with hunger starts with strong community support," said Travis McNeal, Golden Harvest executive director. "We're so blessed by the generosity we see in the Upstate during this drive each year."
South Carolina fans are invited to visit https://donate.harvesthope.org to donate online. Clemson can go to https://goldenharvest.org/donate/?oper=donate&freq=once&prog=13.
The food drive puts focus on another issue surrounding hunger in South Carolina. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, S.C. Department of Commerce and S.C. Department of Agriculture are partners in a campaign to reduce the No. 1 item thrown away in the state: wasted food.
Households are responsible for about 43% of all food waste in the U.S. – more than any other part of the food chain. Each of us throws away about 20 pounds of food per month – or an estimated 240 pounds per year.
When we throw away food, we also waste money – about $1,800 per year for a family of four – and the labor, water, energy and fuel used to produce, package and transport food from the farm to our plates.
Don't Waste Food S.C. is aimed at educating and empowering individuals, businesses and communities to take action by preventing, composting or donating surplus food. The campaign is working toward a goal of reducing food waste in the state by 50% by 2030.
The partners are working together to connect food surpluses to those in need, enhance infrastructure for composting and educate consumers, communities and businesses about what they can do to join the initiative.
By taking part in both the competitive food drive and the don't-waste-food effort, the people of the state can fight hunger and help their neighbors. And that is something about which Clemson and Carolina fans can agree.
The Index-Journal on surplus spending:
We will all have to wait and see what our lawmakers do when assembled in Columbia to discuss what to do with all that extra money, but for our money, we hope they apply reason and logic.
With $2 billion - yes, billion - surplus it would be easy to get rather giddy and foolish with how that money is spent. While many of the state's taxpayers will soon receive a $50 rebate check, we sincerely doubt lawmakers will feel that same sense of generosity now. Even with Christmas looming around the corner.
Frankly, that's OK. The state's had its share of budgetary struggles, so having an extra $2 billion in the coffers should afford lawmakers an opportunity to take care of some needs. Genuine needs.
South Carolina is fortunate that it is entering its second consecutive year with a budget surplus, so now is not the time to be reckless with spending. Truthfully, we need not spend a whole lot of time and space on the topic because others have written so eloquently already about the subject.
We commend for your reading today's column by Andy Brack and the letter penned by Greenwood resident Barbara Jackson.
Brack put the matter into perspective, and succinctly, in writing these words: "South Carolina needs to be strategic in spending this good fortune, not create a political slush fund that ignores the reasons we're at the bottom in public education and have half of our people not earning a living wage."
Let's hope this isn't going to be necessary, but you might want to pop a big ole batch of popcorn and watch what happens in Columbia. Maybe we will all be pleasantly surprised.
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