Dept. of Mental Health may cut $53 million from budget

By Brandi Cummings - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the state's $5 billion budget makes its way through the House of Representatives and the Senate, constituents are getting a good look at what kind of cuts state agencies will be forced to make if the budget is passed.

In the Department of Mental Health, officials there would have to cut $53 million from its budget. It's a bitter pill to swallow, according to DMH attorney Mark Binkley.

"We're all surprised, we're all disappointed, but it's not like we've been singled out," said Binkley. "We understand this is symptomatic of what's going on everyone."

Binkley's been at DMH for 24 years and seen quite a bit of change, but nothing like this.

"It was unimaginable to me, that we would see these kind of cuts," said Binkley.

While many DMH programs were on the chopping block, several of them, like the veterans nursing homes, the sexually violent predator program, and the forensics program, were off limits because of state mandates.

"So essentially what that means is when you take a portion of your budget that's supported by state funds and protect it, that magnifies the cuts into the other programs," said Binkley.

But what about the old mental health facility? Isn't there a deal in place to sell the property? Binkley says DMH expects to make an announcement next month about the sale of the land, but a deal with the company buying the land will take nearly a year to complete and the money from the sale will not affect will not help the department right now.

Any source of revenue would be welcome, as the cuts for DMH are widespread. Staff has been laid off, employees have taken furloughs, programs have been cut, and treatment centers have had to close the doors.

"None of the programs that have been eliminated were not needed," said Binkley.

Binkley says while the impact of the cuts to this department may not be cut and dry, that doesn't mean they don't exist.

"We in the agency may not see them simply drop out and be in some type of crisis," said Binkley. "It may show up in some other type of service delivery systems."

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