SC agency won't put land sale money toward patients

COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Depart­ment of Mental Health will spend the $15 million it gets for selling land in downtown Columbia for building and equipment maintenance instead of patient care.

The agency said the money would still indirectly help patients because the department has to do the repairs and that money would have been taken out of the budget for patient care had the land not been sold.

“The Bull Street campus is eventually going to go away. It’s superfluous to our mission. The truth is the campus costs us money we’d rather be spending on services,” Mark Binkley, a mental health department deputy director who negotiated the sales contract, told The State newspaper.

Mental health advocates think the agency is missing a chance to improve care after years of cutbacks. The agency has lost $87 million in funding since 2008.

“I would hate for all that money to go to capital needs when there is such a need for more psychiatrists, more psychiatric nurses. I would rather see it go to services than bricks and mortar,” said Bill Lindsey, the director of the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The agency is selling 165 acres to Greenville developer Bob Hughes. The $15 million will be paid in installments over seven years. The Department of Mental Health will also be given a part of any profit if the land is sold.

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