An Orangeburg lawmaker says Wednesday’s shooting incident at the Regional Medical Center illustrates the difficulty people have getting mental health treatment.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said she’s “extremely concerned about access” for people seeking mental health treatment beds.
“We’ve got to be able to have some place where they can be admitted and treated and not be a danger to the public or health care providers,” she said.
“I’m just saddened by the whole incident,” Cobb-Hunter said. “Beyond thoughts and prayers, let’s see what we can do to address the lack of beds for the treatment of mental health patients, particularly in rural communities.”
Cobb-Hunter spoke about the issue on the S.C. House floor on Wednesday after a hospital employee was injured by gunfire in RMC’s emergency department. The employee is in critical condition.
The Orangeburg Democrat, flanked by Rep. Jerry Govan, Rep. Justin Bamberg and Rep. Russell Ott, called for prayer and mental health care reform.
Cobb-Hunter said she spoke with Orangeburg County Administrator Harold Young.
“What he asked me to do is make sure, as policy makers, we understand the seriousness of mental illness” because the shooting was a result of mental illness, Cobb-Hunter said.
Abrian Dayquan Sabb, 23, of 529 Casa Court, Orangeburg, is facing one charge of attempted murder and one charge of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
According to Cobb-Hunter, Sabb’s girlfriend reached out to the local mental health center and Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office for help because he was experiencing mental illness.
“He was transported to the mental health center. The mental health center sent him home, told him to come back on Friday,” Cobb-Hunter said.
“They took his weapon yesterday, told the girlfriend, ‘Bring him back on Friday, he’s OK now,'" she said.
“He came back this morning to be seen with another gun this time,” she added.
“Mr. Speaker and members, needless to say, he has some serious mental challenges that were not recognized or treated properly,” she said.
She said her remarks were not meant to disparage the sheriff’s office or the area mental health center, “but this is a plea to all of us to recognize the challenges that mental illness is wreaking or presenting in our communities.”
“We’re standing here today to ask this body to first and foremost remember that (employee) who is undergoing surgery as we speak, to pray for the (employee’s) family. We ask for prayer for the shooter as well because with mental challenges there are always demons that one is fighting,” she said.
Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, said on Wednesday afternoon, “Mental health is an area that collectively we need to do a better job of taking serious.”
“We’ve just got to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help those getting access to mental health care.”
He said, “Sometimes you can wait a day with a cold or upset stomach. Mental health is not like those two things.”
He also noted that he is thankful that the Bamberg-Barnwell Emergency Medical Center was able to accept patients on Wednesday while the Regional Medical Center’s emergency department was temporarily closed.
He encourages those who have dire health care needs to visit the hospital’s emergency department.
“People shouldn’t be afraid to go to the hospital or emergency room. I encourage people not to let this one isolated incident to cause them to act differently,” he said.