In Senate committee: Mental Health, DHEC agency structures

The Medical Affairs subcommittee wrapped up its discussion on a bill to make the mental health services a cabinet-level agency, as opposed to being run by a board. Senator Ray Cleary, who covers Horry, Georgetown, and Charleston counties, is on the five-member subcommittee, and says the issue will now go to the full committee in January.
“In other parts of the bill, which is where you put DAODAS (Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services), which is alcohol and continuing care, into the behavioral health cabinet. At that level what we decided to do was make mental health a cabinet-level agency that is run in a way by the governor’s appointee, that we would leave DAODAS and continuing care, because they are smaller organizations that are run very efficiently as a model for the country to leave them as they are,” says Cleary.
Cleary says one of the items up for discussion in making the mental health agency cabinet-level is changing the name of the agency.
“We were taking that to the full Senate committee as a cabinet-level position and then really one of the questions is and I’ve asked that we change the wording from mental health to behavioral health just so down the road we can expand the role. So, it may, if it is a number that’s small enough and can be transitioned, we may do a name change. But, I think there is an overwhelming desire for that to be put as a cabinet-level agency, which I think will probably move forward,” says Cleary.
Last week, the subcommittee also discussed if it should make DHEC a cabinet-level agency run by the governor, or leave it where the governor appoints board members, and in turn the board members appoint the head of the agency.
“With the DHEC bill what occurred was we wanted to do was try and make sure it’s as apolitical as possible, which is we do not want to create an agency that actually has more politics in it. We really want to create an agency that is less political. That is the real question, and there is a group of people who believe if we make a cabinet-agency with a direct appointee by the governor is would make it more political, and there’s another group of people who feel like it would make it less political,” says Cleary.
The subcommittee did not make a decision on their plan for reorganizing DHEC, so senators will take it up for further discussion when the full senate committee reconvenes in January. Cleary says the subcommittee did not want to make a rash decision, so they are looking for a concensus in the full committee.
Listen here to portion of Cleary interview