Closure of behavioral health facility in Pee Dee leaves some parents scrambling

Pee Dee Mental Health Facility Closing

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - The closing of Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health in Florence has some parents on edge.

Daniel Eichelberger, the center’s CEO, announced Wednesday the facility will shut its doors June 30. In a statement, he said multiple factors led to the decision, including the cost to renovate the aging facility.

While the center has a history of violations and fines, Amber Woods is disappointed to see it close.

Woods said she got an e-mail Wednesday that the facility was shutting down and her son Barry would be discharged June 7.

"This is an emergency,” she said. “I mean we've got two weeks and no place to go."

Woods’ son started treatment at Palmetto Pee Dee Behavioral Health in 2013. Barry has severe autism and aggression issues that requires around the clock care.

“He’s what they consider a runner. He likes to run away,” she said.

In March, the Department of Health and Environmental Control cited staff misconduct violations, as well as patient abuse allegations against the facility.

"He'd have scratches on him and bruises on him and so I was concerned and we had been looking for a new facility,” Woods said.

However, Woods said recently the center improved so the announcement came as a shock to her.

"They had been making positive changes as far as the facility itself as well, you know, they made employee changes and I thought it was going in the right direction," she said.

The change is not only hard for Woods, but she said it’s probably more stressful for her son and other patients who require long-term care and are used to being on a schedule.

“There are several other children, young adults, that are going to be affected by this with no place to go and going home is not an option for because of safety reasons for themselves... for the people they live with,” Woods said.

DHEC requires a facility to provide a list of where patients will be relocated prior to closing.

Woods said she's working with the Board of Disabilities and Special Needs on relocation, but so far no other facilities have openings.

She said she may have no choice, but to quit her job if nothing becomes available.

“I won’t be able to work,” she said. “I’ll have no means of support when that happens... our lives are going to be different.”

DHEC officials said Palmetto Pee Dee hasn’t officially notified them about the closure. The agency and the facility were still in the process of deciding on corrective actions for the violations.

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