A look into how Charleston County deputies transports mental health patients

A look into how Charleston County deputies transport the mentally ill

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WIS) - Master Deputy Dennis Carter has been with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office for two decades.

For the last seven years, he has been a part of the Therapeutic Transportation Unit.

A bill filed in response to the drowning deaths of two mental health patients last year is hoping to change the way mental health patients are transported in the state.

Master Dep. Carter said, “There’s a lot of mental illness out there and we deal with it every day.”

The bill, filed by Senator Marlon Kimpson (D-Charleston), uses this unit as a model.

The unit is responsible for taking mentally ill people to court-ordered treatments. They also transport patients to institutions across the state. “We’re there to help them. That’s the whole reason we are there. To make sure they get treated and taken where they need to be and it’s handled as safe as possible,” Carter said.

Deputies receive mental health and crisis intervention training. Carter said the training is crucial to their jobs. “A lot of times it’s the way you approach them. The way you talk tso them. Your demeanor.”

The unit works closely with the Charleston County Probate Court, local hospitals and Charleston Dorchester mental health.

When transporting patients they don’t use marked vehicles. “We’re reassuring them that we’re there to help them. We’re not there to cause them any pain or more aggravation or turmoil,” Carter said.

The unit is made up of five deputies. They stay pretty busy according to Carter. “We average right around 100 calls a month.”

The bill wants to make units like these are more common. Any law enforcement officer transporting a mental health patient needs to undergo the same training and be a part of a “Therapeutic Transport Unit.”

The bill seeks to extend the amount of time an order can last for in time of natural disaster. “Papers under current laws expire in three days so there tends to be a rush to transport the patients. What this does. It extends this time period to three days after the road conditions are safe during a storm,” Sen. Kimpson said.

The bill will go before a Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee Wednesday morning.

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