First-of-its-kind behavioral health hub in Florence to serve as model for future facilities across S.C.

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Published: Jun. 15, 2023 at 8:30 PM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday, state leaders announced what they are calling an innovative approach to treating South Carolinians’ growing mental health needs.

It will start with a new, $100 million behavioral health facility in the Pee Dee, but its successes could be replicated in other parts of South Carolina.

“That’s why we’re here today: celebrating a bold, new, and aggressive approach to treat behavioral health across the state of South Carolina,” Francis Marion University President Dr. Fred Carter said at the announcement event Thursday in Florence.

That kind of approach is what medical leaders say South Carolina desperately needs right now.

“I’m not even going to talk about the tsunami of anxiety and depression that our youth are facing — by the way, stay tuned because it’s heading our direction,” Medical University of South Carolina President Dr. David Cole said. “I think this provides a basis for us to actually start putting the fire out and then start doing something on a larger scale to actually have us have a healthy society to reflect the health of our state.”

On Thursday, state and medical leaders gathered outside the future site of a regional behavioral health hub in downtown Florence, located at an MUSC-owned property on E. Cedar St.

Construction is slated to start in 2024, with the facility opening two years after that to serve the Pee Dee region, according to Cole.

The facility will offer a combination of triage, crisis stabilization, telehealth, outpatient, and inpatient services, a first-of-its-kind model in South Carolina.

“When good things happen, they happen here first, and they happen here fast, and today is another example of that,” Gov. Henry McMaster said.

The project announced Thursday is a public-private partnership between the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Mental Health, MUSC, McLeod Health, Francis Marion University, and HopeHealth.

Up to $100 million in state funds have been set aside for this facility, along with another $5 million from the City of Florence.

“This is the future of what’s coming to South Carolina,” Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R – Sumter, said. “This is the model of care that we’re going to set up regionally throughout the state, and we’re going to have a vibrant and successful behavioral health system.”

State leaders say they will be looking at what works at the Florence facility to use it as a model for future behavioral health hubs in other regions of South Carolina.

“We’d like to get some of those models learning from quick wins, quick learning that we’re going to experience as we bring this facility up. I’m hoping in the next couple years, we start getting some replication in some other areas,” SCDHHS Director Robby Kerr said.

The Florence behavioral health hub will be named in honor of the late Florence County Sen. Hugh Leatherman, who chaired the state Senate’s powerful budget-writing committee and advocated for the facility’s creation at the State House before his death in 2021.

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