Governor McMaster Explains Exactly Why we Need Health Agency Restructuring

May 15, 2024

Palmetto Promise Team

On the last day of the legislative session, the crucially important bill to restructure South Carolina’s badly fractured health agencies was stalled due to a last-ditch procedural move.

This delay is a disservice to all South Carolinians. Our state health agencies are in dire need of reform. This is a truth leaders have recognized for decades, and the current bill, S.915 has been two years in the making. If no concrete plan for SC’s health agencies is passed before the DHEC split goes into effect July 1, even further confusion will ensue. There’s even an argument to be made that the state budget cannot be finalized until clear health agency legislation is passed.

Palmetto Promise has led the charge for this common-sense restructuring of our state agencies. In our weekly emails leading up to sine die, we applauded the amendments made in the House Judiciary Committee that strengthened the bill even further, making the roles of sheriffs and the National Guard in a public health emergency even clearer. Thanks to our efforts, several South Carolina House members who initially voted against the House version of the bill back in February were won over to voting in favor of S.915 last week. Fewer members than ever before voted against the bill. It passed the House 98-15, after sailing through the Senate with all but a single vote.

That’s why the General Assembly should amend its sine die resolution to allow consideration of S.915 in the legislative post-season (a two-thirds threshold that can easily be reached with the overwhelming support S.915 enjoys has in each chamber). Members will be back in the Statehouse on at least three occasions in the month of June.

In a news conference this week, Governor Henry McMaster presented a strong case for why the General Assembly should pass this legislation. Here are a few of the best quotes from McMaster:

“There’s probably not a family in our state that has not experienced some need for mental health, disability, psychological, drug addiction….all of the things that these various agencies handle but in no coordination.”

“We have ended up over the years with people who have no place to go, and when people have no place to go for all these kinds of problems—suicide, drug addiction, all sorts of problems—they don’t have any help. If there’s no families or friends, if there’s no one there who can help them, then they must come to the State. And if we drop that ball—we have dropped the ball—we have a terrible situation there. And I believe, and others do too, that our lack of an effective response is exacerbating the problem…We can’t wait another day. If you look at our various institutions, we have young people going to the Department of Juvenile Justice that shouldn’t be. They ought to be in a mental health institution.  We have suicides. We have way too many things happening to our people that could be prevented if we would get organized and streamlined.”

“They’ve got to get this [S.915] done. There are lives of young people and families that have no place to go right now except these fractured organizations that clearly are not working well.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Governor McMaster!

Senator Tom Davis (a stalwart champion of healthcare freedom) shared a clip of McMaster’s press conference on Twitter, saying “Gov. McMaster shows leadership on a public-healthcare reform bill (S. 915) 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.”

He hits the nail on the head explaining why the current health agency structure is flawed, unaccountable, and ineffective. Streamlining agency structure and making it directly answerable to the Governor is a great step toward delivering better services for South Carolinians and building in clear measures for accountability. The General Assembly must pass S.915, and they must do so quickly.