Dr. Alison Evans

Dr. Alison Y. Evans of Hartsville received the Chair’s Award in recognition of her 15 years of service as chair of the SC Mental Health Commission. From left are L. Gregory Pearce Jr., chair, SC Mental Health Commission; Evans; John H. Magill, former state director of the SC Department of Mental Health (SCDMH); and Mark W. Binkley, interim state director of the SCDMH.

Dr. Alison Evans of Hartsville was presented the Chair’s Award by her fellow SC Mental Health Commissioners in recognition of her 15 years of service as chair of the commission and thanking her at the commission’s Sept. 6 meeting.

Evans, who was appointed to the commission in March of 2004, was recognized for steadfast support and leadership of the SC Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) as chair of the governing body of the agency. Evans guided the SCDMH, one of the largest state agencies in South Carolina serving approximately 100,000 people per year, in both trying times as well as during times of notable achievement.

During her tenure, the commission selected John H. Magill to be the state director, a position he held for more than 12 years. Upon his retirement earlier this year, Magill was the longest serving state mental health director in America. Owing to their long and steady leadership, the Department of Mental Health had many notable accomplishments and reached many milestones during the past 15 years:

» Begun in 2009 with grant funding from The Duke Endowment during the depths of the recession, SCDMH’s innovative and award winning Emergency Department Telepsychiatry Program was created to meet the critical shortage of psychiatrists in South Carolina’s underserved areas, and assist hospital emergency rooms by providing appropriate treatment to persons in a psychiatric crisis, using real-time, state-of-the-art video-and-voice technology that connects SCDMH psychiatrists to hospital emergency departments throughout the state.

» Since then, SCDMH has expanded its use of telepsychiatry to provide psychiatric treatment services throughout its community mental health centers and clinics.

» SCDMH is now the largest provider of telepsychiatry services in South Carolina. From its inception to Sept. 1, 2019, SCDMH’s Telepsychiatry Programs have provided a combined 130,000 psychiatric services via telehealth.

» Telepsychiatry has now become an integral component of service delivery in all of SCDMH’s treatment programs.

During Evans’ tenure as chair, SCDMH also made great strides in improving its access to its services:

» Improved access to services —DMH’s Community Mental Health Centers developed intake teams and provided walk-in times so initial services are available as quickly as possible. The statewide average of time from referral to first available appointment is two days.

» School mental health—with generous funding provided by the South Carolina General Assembly, DMH continued to expand school mental health services. With more than 400 school mental health professionals, DMH serves more than 730 schools. In 2018, Superintendent Molly Spearman and DMH State Director John H. Magill issued a joint letter supporting school mental health services with the goal that all public schools will have access to school mental health services.

» Mobile crisis response —with funding from DHHS, DMH recently completed the statewide rollout of crisis response services. Trained therapists are available 24/7 via toll free number — (833) 364-2274 — to take calls from, or about someone experiencing a psychiatric crisis. If needed, the therapists are able to respond, with law enforcement, to the scene of a mental health crisis within one hour 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Evans provided stable leadership as the agency faced difficult days. She was integral to the Leadership team that steered the Agency as it weathered challenges such as the Great Recession of the mid-2000s.

“DMH’s accomplishments are tied, inextricably, to Dr. Evans leadership,” said Commission Chair L. Gregory Pearce Jr. “We are grateful she has shared her time and talents to ensure the agency’s improvement, innovation, and evolution, and are thankful she continues to serve on this governing board.”

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