The South Carolina Protection and Advocacy Agency distributed a report last week revealing shocking conditions at many of the state’s facilities for the disabled. The Department of Health and Environmental Control was one of the first agencies to be presented with that report. Oversight of those facilities is split between different agencies. The report calls for more funding for DHEC and the Department of Labor, Licensing and regulation for regular investigations.The report also recommends giving the agencies more enforcement options against frequently cited facilities.
The Protection and Advocacy investigation revealed abuse and unsanitary living conditions, including cockroach infestations, bloodstained walls and urine-soaked furnishings.
DHEC spokesman Tom Berry says his agency was already striving for improvement before the report was issued. “There are 400 of these residential facilities around the state with nearly 17,000 beds. This is an area of special interest for us and we’re in the process of looking at everything we do connected with oversight of the facilities to find out how we can do it better.”
The report titled “No Place to Call Home” revealed that 40 percent of the 150 facilities which were investigated had real problems.
The report says DHEC should inform the public and concerned parties about problem facilities. It calls for facility inspection reports to be made available to the public on DHEC’s website and posted at the facility.
Berry says his agency is already asking tough questions within its own walls. “We want to know how we can be more effective. We’ve already begun the review process that could lead to recommendations for the General Assembly, or for DHEC internally so that we can better regulate these types of homes.”
Berry says hopefully the report and DHEC’s efforts will result in an improvement in the processes of permitting and oversight. “This process will involve a lot of people, including those who operate the facilities, as well as advocacy groups like the one which just released the report. We look to them for input on how we can do things better.”