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SCDHHS Announces $35 Million Behavioral Health Crisis Stabilization Grant Program

COLUMBIA, S.C.– The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) today announced the creation of a new grant program to increase access to crisis stabilization services for South Carolinians who are experiencing behavioral health episodes, including those associated with mental health and substance use. Through the newly created behavioral health crisis stabilization services grant program, the agency will issue approximately $35 million in grant funds to South Carolina hospitals to build specialized hospital-based emergency departments and observational units dedicated to behavioral health. The application for the grant program is available on the agency’s website.

In his State of the State Address in January 2022, Governor Henry McMaster directed SCDHHS to “initiate an immediate review of our State’s behavioral health funding and delivery system.” In addition, the South Carolina General Assembly directed SCDHHS to “undertake an effort to assess existing gaps in coverage for or the supply of inpatient psychiatric care, crisis stabilization, and other inpatient or outpatient behavioral health services” in its 2022-2023 General Appropriations Bill (117.153).

“It's been very clear in recent years that a mental health crisis exists in South Carolina,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “This grant program will provide our hospitals with the infrastructure needed to meet the increased demand for behavioral and mental health services and ultimately improve the quality of care for South Carolinians in crisis.”

In May 2022, SCDHHS completed its review of South Carolina’s school mental health services program and released seven recommendations to improve access to critical school-based mental health services. Establishing a behavioral health crisis stabilization services grant is another key component of the agency’s plan to improve access to behavioral health services and promote continuity of care throughout the state’s health care delivery system.

“Behavioral health services in South Carolina are delivered through a complex array of fragmented systems that are difficult to navigate and have produced significant gaps in services,” said SCDHHS Director Robby Kerr. “We look forward to working with hospitals across the state to build these specialized units dedicated to improving access to these important services and helping those who are experiencing a behavioral health crisis access appropriate care in appropriate settings.”

More About the Grant Program

Crisis stabilization services grant funds must be used as one-time infrastructure funds to build specialized hospital-based emergency departments and observational units dedicated to behavioral health. These dedicated departments and units will need to operate on a “no wrong door” model providing a care alternative to emergency or inpatient admission or use of law enforcement resources that is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The agency’s goals through the establishment of this grant program are to ease overcrowding in the general emergency department, initiate needed urgent psychiatric treatment and reduce unnecessary hospital inpatient admissions through the addition of patient spaces. The primary spaces in the unit will be for recliners/open space in order to provide a calming space for rapid assessments and treatment.

View the behavioral health crisis stabilization services grant request for application and learn more about the grant program on SCDHHS’ website.

Key Behavioral Health Statistics

  • During the first week of the 2022-2023 school year, the Medical University of South Carolina reported treating six children per day in its pediatric emergency department for behavioral health needs.
  • Approximately 70% of youth in South Carolina with a major depressive episode do not receive mental health services.
  • Nationally, between 12% - 15% of all emergency department visits are mental-health related.
  • Nationally, behavioral health emergency department stays often average over 30 hours.
  • Psychiatric patients spend three times longer than other patients in the emergency department, this prevents 2.2 bed turnovers on average.
  • Typically, 70-80% of psychiatric emergencies can be stabilized in less than 24 hours.
  • Nationally, at least 7 million emergency psychiatric assessments are made each year.
  • Nationally, mental health-related emergency department visits among adolescents increased by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls between the ages of 12 and 17 were 51% higher in February and March 2021 than during the same period in 2019.
  • High school students with depression are more than twice as likely to drop out than their peers.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for South Carolinians between ages 10-14.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for South Carolinians between ages 15-17.


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