SC lawmakers proposing changes to the way mental health patients are transported

Lawmakers proposing changes to the way mental health patients are transported

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Linda Green and her family will be spending the holidays without her daughter.

Her daughter, Nicolette, drowned along with Wendy Newton while they were in the back of a Horry County Sheriff’s Office van. The van was swept away in Marion County by flood waters during Hurricane Florence.

“They were transported in a vehicle that resembled more of a dog crate,” Green said.

State Senator Marlon Kimpson (D- District 42) said, “The issue of dealing with mental health citizens is not a law enforcement issue. It’s a health issue.”

The Senate Subcommittee he is a part of has a draft bill they hope to file before the legislative session begins. Right now they are focused on two aspects of transportation. “The issue is who best to transport. What the bill does it contemplate there will be therapeutic members of law enforcement.”

Senator Kimpson said this is modeled after Charleston County Sheriff’s Office’s Therapeutic Transportation Unit.

Lawmakers say they want the law enforcement officers in this unit to undergo crisis intervention training.

They’re also discussing whether or not the vehicle should be unmarked and the officer will be required to be in plain clothes.

The second focus of their proposals is making sure family and friends of mental health patients are aware they can transport these individuals themselves.

The families of Green and Newton said they were not notified of this option.

Lawmakers in the subcommittee say throughout this process they’ve learned more needs to be done for mental health in the state of South Carolina. Not just the transportation aspect.

Senator Kimpson said, “It centered around a crisis in the state of South Carolina with respect to the lack of funding that we have in our system for mental health treatment.”

Green said they hope some change comes out of all this. “To have the treatment that is necessary without scaring them without making them feel lost, hopeless, and defeated.”

Today’s hearing also featured testimony about the lack of care available for mental health patients in rural areas of the state. Lawmakers say that needs to be addressed as well.

Senator Kimpson said at the moment they are unsure of how much the cost will be to these changes implemented statewide, but he says he believes any changes should not be underfunded.

We have reached out to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for an update on their investigation into the deaths of Newton and Green.

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