Did you know that one in two U.S. citizens have yet to create a plan for their estate? Just about everyone knows they need to get their affairs in order, but most people procrastinate when it comes to estate planning. It's an uncomfortable subject to think about. After all, nobody wants to ponder their death and what happens to their assets when they pass. However, working with an estate planning lawyer in Columbia, SC, protects you, your loved ones, and your assets, both while you're alive and after you have died. There isn't a perfect time to plan your estate, but there is a right time â and that time is now.
We understand that there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to your estate planning needs. That's why, at CDH Law Firm, we make a concerted effort to speak with our clients personally so that we can create an estate plan that is as unique as they are. Our estate plans are comprehensive, cost-effective, and catered to you. That way, your family is provided if you are incapacitated or pass away.
At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure that every one of our clients leaves our office feeling less stressed and more informed. Peace of mind is valuable currency these days. Why worry about the future of your loved ones when you can use South Carolina law to ensure their stability?
Many of the clients in Columbia that walk through our doors have significant questions that require serious answers. They're filled with doubt, stress, and worry. They're worried about their children, their spouse, their relatives, or all the above. They ask questions like:
If these questions sound familiar, know that you are not alone. At CDH Law Firm, we have worked with hundreds of clients just like you. Sometimes, these clients are unsatisfied with their current estate planning attorney in Columbia. Other times, they have been served with confusing papers or documents that leave them feeling overwhelmed. In either case, clients come to our office knowing they need to manage what is often a sudden, foreign situation.
The good news? We sit down with all new clients for an hour at no extra cost. We do so to get a basic sense of their situation and help steer them in the right direction. That way, they can leave our office feeling a little wiser and a lot better about the future.
Our firm specializes in several areas of estate planning and family law, including:
At Cobb Dill & Hammett, LLC, estate planning is like second nature to us. Having worked hundreds upon hundreds of cases, we have the knowledge and experience to assist with all the estate planning needs that you or your family have.
As our client, you will always work directly with your attorney. We do not pass cases off to paralegals or junior associates. Because your concerns and questions don't end when our office closes, we encourage our clients to contact us at any time.
Because we limit the number of cases we accept, we have the time and resources to truly dedicate ourselves to each of our clients. Unlike some competitors, we care about the outcome of every case because we know that our clients' future depends on it.
The word "estate" might make you think of a sprawling mansion in the French countryside. The truth is, you don't have to be rich to have an estate. In fact, most people already have an estate. An estate comprises the assets that a person owns like cars, bank accounts, real estate, businesses, and other possessions. Everyone's estate is different, but we all have one thing in common: none of us can take our estates with us when we die. When that does eventually happen, you will need legal instructions that state who gets what from your estate in plain terms.That, in a nutshell, is estate planning â building a framework in advance that names the organizations or people that should receive your assets after you die. Planning your estate now helps make life much easier for your family down the line.
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn't just for adults who are approaching retirement age. Estate planning is for everyone. After all, we're all getting older, and none of us know exactly when it will be our time to go.
Although estate planning can be complicated, a well-rounded plan makes a huge difference in what is left to your beneficiaries. Before you start planning your estate, it's important to know a few common topics that may arise as you detail your needs.
Working with a veteran estate planning lawyer is a no-brainer, but you should consider working with a tax advisor too. Your attorney's role is to help guide you through the creation of your estate planning documents. Common documents include your will, health care directives, and power of attorney. Your tax advisor will help guide you through tax issues associated with your estate planning needs.
In this relationship, you make the decisions while your attorney and tax advisor help you understand and think through the options you're considering. As a team, they will help you state your wishes clearly while minimizing mistakes and adjusting your plans as they change. Because significant savings can result from thorough, informed planning, you should seriously consider working with a tax advisor in addition to your estate planning attorney.
If there were one overriding theme of estate planning, it would be maximizing what you plan to leave behind. Thinking through how each of your assets will be distributed is crucial to your estate. Your decisions may change depending on the type of asset, its size, how old you are, and several other factors. With an attorney on your side, you will gain a thorough understanding of what actions you should take to care for your family while minimizing expenses like taxes and court fees.
One of the biggest parts of maximizing what you're leaving behind is to minimize taxes. Federal taxes on estates and gifts are incredibly high. Both forms of taxes usually have exemption limits, which means you can give up to a specific amount without being taxed. Your lawyer can achieve that by using the gift tax exemption to move assets while you are still alive. This strategy maximizes how much your beneficiaries will receive.
Inheritance taxes are often based on the value of your estate and paid prior to asset distribution to your beneficiaries.
The executor of your estate plays a key role in your affairs. Their responsibilities include carrying out the terms of your will and seeing the estate settlement process through until the end. Obviously, such a role demands a qualified person. Choosing your executor isn't an easy decision. The person you select should be great at managing money, be savvy financially, and show an ability to be patient. That's because the executor is tasked with:
If the person that you choose as executor is inexperienced with the estate settlement process, it is recommended that they lean on an estate planning attorney in Columbia, SC for guidance. It should be noted that you may appoint more than a single executor to your estate. This is common when two individuals have complementary personalities or skill sets.
One of the biggest benefits of planning your estate is the peace of mind it brings to you and your family. With the help of our expert estate planning attorneys, you have the power to protect your assets, privacy, and children's welfare. You can also potentially save money on taxes or even avoid probate. By having your wishes legally documented before death or incapacity, you can minimize any impact on your beneficiaries and take control of your legacy. Without a comprehensive estate plan, you're leaving the future of your loved ones in the hands of the South Carolina court system.
With an estate plan in place, you can plan for incapacity by using a power of attorney or advanced medical directives. Doing so relieves your loved ones of the burden of asking the court for the authority to fulfill your wishes.
At CDH Law Firm, we are committed to helping you prepare for both the expected and unexpected through years of experience and a fierce dedication to our clients. From establishing trusts to designing business succession plans, we are here to fight for you.
If a husband and wife each purchase reciprocating will packages we give a discount. Reciprocating just means the husband names the wife and the wife names the husband. Those four documents are:
As mentioned above, everyone's estate planning needs will be different. However, most plans include one or more of the following documents:
Your will is an essential piece of documentation and is often considered the cornerstone of a proper estate plan. Generally speaking, your will is a document that dictates the distribution of your assets after your death. Having an iron-clad will is one of the best ways to make sure that your wishes are communicated clearly. As is the case with most estate planning, it is highly recommended that you work with an estate planning attorney in Columbia, SC, to create and update your will.
The contents of a will typically include:
Without a will in place, the State of South Carolina will decide how to distribute assets to your beneficiaries. Allowing the state to distribute your assets is often an unfavorable route to take, since the settlement process may not include what you had in mind for your survivors. Having a will drafted that reflects your wishes will prevent such a situation from happening.
Despite its name, a living will does not instruct your survivors on what assets go where. Also called an advanced directive, your living will allows you to state your end-of-life medical wishes if you have become unable to communicate. This important document provides guidance to family members and doctors and solidifies certain issues like whether you should be resuscitated after an accident.
For example, it's common to direct that palliative care (care to decrease pain and suffering) always be administered if needed. Conversely, you may state that certain measures are not allowed, like CPR.
Traditionally, a trust is used to minimize estate taxes and maximize other benefits as part of a well-rounded estate plan. This fiduciary agreement lets a trustee hold your assets on behalf of your beneficiaries. There are many ways to arrange a trust to specify when and how your assets are distributed.
With a trust in place, your beneficiaries can avoid going to probate. That means they may be able to gain access to your assets quicker than when they are transferred with a standard will. Assets placed in a trust can pass outside of probate, which will save you and your family time, money, and stress.
There are two distinct trust categories that you should be aware of: revocable and irrevocable.
Also called a living trust, a revocable trust helps assets circumvent probate. With this trust, you can control your assets while you are still alive. These trusts are flexible and may be dissolved at any point in time. This type of trust becomes irrevocable upon your death. Revocable trusts can help you avoid the pitfalls of probate but be aware that they are usually still taxable.
This kind of trust transfers assets out of your estate so that they are not taxed and do not have to go through probate. However, once an irrevocable trust has been executed, it may not be altered. That means that once you establish this kind of trust, you lose control of its assets and cannot dissolve the trust. If your primary goal is to avoid taxes on your estate, setting up an irrevocable could be a wise choice.
When drafted with the help of an estate planning lawyer in Columbia, SC, your trust can also:
If you know that you need to provide for your family and loved ones after your death, it's time to develop your estate plan. With CDH Law Firm by your side, planning your estate doesn't have to be difficult. However, it does need to be accurate and executed exactly to your wishes â something that we have been helping clients achieve for years. Don't leave your legacy up to chance â contact our office today and secure your future generations.CONTACT US
Columbia residents won’t need to travel far to enjoy a variety of Juneteenth events this weekend.Juneteenth, which falls on Sunday this year, recognizes June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX to tell slaves there that the Civil War was over and they were free. The day has been celebrated ever since, but only became an official federal holiday on June 16, 2021.While the federal holiday falls on Sunday, most federal employees will have a day off on Monday.If you’re looking for...
Columbia residents won’t need to travel far to enjoy a variety of Juneteenth events this weekend.
Juneteenth, which falls on Sunday this year, recognizes June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, TX to tell slaves there that the Civil War was over and they were free. The day has been celebrated ever since, but only became an official federal holiday on June 16, 2021.
While the federal holiday falls on Sunday, most federal employees will have a day off on Monday.
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Juneteenth in the Columbia area, try one or more of these five events.
When: Saturday at 12 p.m.
Where: Charles W. Johnson Stadium at 1920 Two Notch Road
Come out for a day of celebration and education for the 6th Annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival. This family-friendly community event will include activities and resources, such as historical awareness and reenactment fair rides and fireworks. The will be live music and an award ceremony honoring key figures in the South Carolina Black community.
There will also be retail and food vendors, help with voter registration, along with health information including COVID testing, sickle cell awareness and other seminars.
Entry tickets will cost $25 each.
When: Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Historic Harriet Barber House & Grounds, 116 Barberville Loop, Hopkins, SC
Drive just a few miles outside of downtown Columbia for the Juneteenth Celebration at the historic Harriet Barber House in Hopkins. There will be family fun and games, live entertainment, vendors, exhibits, the American Inventors Museum, presentations and more.
Admission is free.
When: Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 1515 Main Street
In celebration of Juneteenth, the Columbia Museum of Art will offer free admission for the day. Beginning at 1 p.m., take a guided tour of Black art in the museum’s collection with Dr. Nancy Tolson, CMA commissioner and University of South Carolina assistant director of African American Studies.
Self-guided tours will be available all day. All tours will be presented in partnership with the Friends of African American Art and Culture.
When: Saturday at 8 a.m.
Where: Semmes Lake next to Marion Street Station at 4522 Marion Ave.
Come participate in a family fun run/ walk 5K in celebration of Juneteenth. For registration information, call Pam Long at 803-751-3700.
When: Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: EdVenture museum at 211 Gervais St.
The EdVenture Children’s Museum in Columbia is hosting a Juneteenth event featuring story tellers, a live painting demonstration by Gullah artist Amira Farris, live music, poetry and information on the history of sweet grass baskets.
The events are free with museum admission.
This story was originally published June 17, 2022 5:00 AM.
$10 million investment to create 402 new jobs COLUMBIA, S.C. – Carolina Precision Foods, LLC – a joint venture of Carolina Fresh Foods and owners of Lake Foods – today announced plans to establish operations in Florence County. The company’s $10 million investment will create 402 new jobs.Carolina Precision Foods, LLC is a poultry further processing company that specializes in deboning, portioning, marination, custom further processing and mechanically separating...
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Carolina Precision Foods, LLC – a joint venture of Carolina Fresh Foods and owners of Lake Foods – today announced plans to establish operations in Florence County. The company’s $10 million investment will create 402 new jobs.
Carolina Precision Foods, LLC is a poultry further processing company that specializes in deboning, portioning, marination, custom further processing and mechanically separating food.
Located at 2901 W. Darlington Street in Florence, Carolina Precision Foods, LLC’s new facility will partner with regional poultry processors in custom further processing of poultry products.
Operations are expected to be online in August 2022.
The Coordinating Council for Economic Development has approved job development credits related to this project.
“We are excited to become a member of Florence County and the Pee Dee Region. With over 65 million pounds of poultry processed weekly within two hours of Florence, this was the perfect location for our plant. With Interstates 20 and 95 at our doorstep, fresh chicken from Carolina Precision Foods can be processed for over 19 million consumers in a day. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Florence County!” -Carolina Precision Foods, LLC Chief Financial Officer Jim Robinson
“Agribusiness is one of our leading industries, and with our pro-business environment, it continues to grow at a rapid pace. We congratulate Carolina Precision Foods, LLC on their $10 million investment and look forward to the impact these 402 new jobs will have on Florence County.” -Gov. Henry McMaster
“South Carolina is home to a dynamic roster of agribusiness companies, and we are proud that Carolina Precision Foods, LLC is joining that list. We welcome Carolina Precision Foods, LLC to Florence County and look forward to the positive impact they will make in the local community and beyond.” -Secretary of Commerce Harry M. Lightsey III
“We are excited to welcome Carolina Precision Foods, LLC to the state of South Carolina. Their operation will offer additional processing opportunities to our state’s poultry growers. We look forward to the continued growth of our state’s agribusiness industry.” -South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers
“We are thrilled to welcome Carolina Precision Foods, LLC to Florence County and are excited about the 402 new jobs they will create for our community. It is clear that food and beverage companies continue to find Florence County as the right place to do business.” -Florence County Council Chairman Willard Dorriety Jr.
When I told some friends I was visiting South Carolina recently, they immediately assumed I was heading to the beach. Charleston, maybe? Myrtle Beach? Any of the many other quaint ...
When I told some friends I was visiting South Carolina recently, they immediately assumed I was heading to the beach. Charleston, maybe? Myrtle Beach? Any of the many other quaint beach towns the state is known for?
All good guesses, and all great places to visit. But I was actually on my way to Columbia. “And it will actually be my third visit,” I added.
You could see some surprise momentarily cross the faces of these friends. And I get it, a few years ago the extent of my knowledge of Columbia, South Carolina came from memorizing the state capitals in elementary school. But as I’ve gotten to know the city, I’ve discovered that it’s so much more than another dot in the middle of a map. It’s a vibrant and underrated destination with tons of outdoor activities nearby.
Three trips in, it’s safe to say I have a soft spot for this city — here is my guide.
I lived in the south for five years after graduate school, and I still jump at any opportunity to go back for one big reason: the food. Nowhere else in the United States can quite compare to a Southern meal. But not just for the traditional biscuits and gravy or shrimp and grits – it’s all good. And Columbia didn’t disappoint. I found myself exclaiming at each meal that it was “the best meal I have ever had” and not hyperbolically.
Meals are events in South Carolina and I was happy to indulge.
I walked to dinner at Black Rooster on my first night in town. A “Frenchish” restaurant in West Columbia, Black Rooster combines French preparation and techniques with local and international cuisines. I started with a cheese plate and some bubbles while enjoying the ambiance and view. I followed with the nightly special – a soft shell crab on a bed of Moroccan rice. It was one of the most interesting and tasty dishes I’ve had on the road in a long time.
Another memorable dining experience is just a short 15-mile drive outside of town in Lexington SC. Bodhi Thai is an elegant and innovative Modern Thai restaurant with impeccable service and atmosphere. I started with a fresh roll that lived up to its name, followed by the pan-seared scallops on a parsnip puree and was truly overwhelmed – in a great way – with the sophisticated and interesting flavors and presentation.
It can really only be described as *an experience.* And one I definitely recommend.
Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina, which adds to the vibrancy and trendy feel of this decidedly southern locale. Nicknamed the Cola City, there is no shortage of watering holes in and outside the city limits.
Before dinner my first night in town I visited Savage Craft Ale Works for a rooftop drink and a sunset view. I was not disappointed – in the atmosphere or the beer. I’m not an IPA gal, but had a glass of Galaxy Banger Hazy IPA that came recommended and found myself reconsidering my entire beer history and preferences. It was tropical and refreshing – the perfect pour to relax outside on a warm summer night.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find some wineries in the region. While the spots I visited were quick to note that the soil and climate is not necessarily ideal for a wine region – it has only led to innovation and unique winemaking. I loved spending an afternoon at Mercer House Winery in Lexington – one of the most unique wineries I have ever visited (and I have visited many).
The winding road to Mercer House Winery was beautiful, although residential and unassuming. But after you walk past the gate things take a turn – literally. The property is gorgeous and eclectic, with wine tastings at a bar in a barn (making all my southern dreams come true).
I was the only person there for my first eight or so wine tastings. Yes, I said first eight – because there are 18 wines in a tasting – plus some you can add on to that if you dare. It’s definitely a place to sit and stay a while. The flavors were unlike any other wines I’ve tasted – lemon blueberry, honey lemon tea, and even a chocolate mango pinot grigio.
It’s, obviously, not an uptight place. I recommend trying at least one of the jalapeno “bumper juices” while you’re there and then spending some time sobering up while walking the gorgeous grounds.
My favorite spot to grab a glass of champagne in Columbia itself ended up being Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe, an outpost of the Charleston favorite with decadent desserts and a lively bar. Located right downtown and near my hotel, I was able to walk over, find a seat at the bar, and enjoy my book and drink with a side of chocolate cake. I can’t think of anything better.
On my last trip to Columbia I stayed in a great location downtown at Aloft Downtown. It was centrally located to everything I wanted to do in the downtown area and an easy drive to anything outside of town.
There are also many quaint short-term rentals in Columbia that are extremely budget-friendly and Instagrammable. I really love this quaint tiny house near campus and this incredibly stylish treehouse with the perfect outdoor seating areas and hot tub.
The food might bring me to the south, but I keep coming back for outdoor recreation. Congaree National Park – one of the least visited and, in my opinion, underrated parks is less than 20 miles from downtown. Here you can hike, fish, camp, and canoe while marveling at expansive biodiversity and old-growth bottomland hardwood forest.
I’ve visited 57 of the 63 major US National Parks and have chosen to come back to Congaree not once but twice after my initial visit. It doesn’t have the towering granite or wide-open spaces of the western parks, but there’s something special about the forest canopy. The crowds are lighter and the landscape more delicate.
You have to pay attention at a place like this, and it’s the perfect place to take some deep breaths and truly forest bathe. I recommend going when the trees are green in the spring or early summer. And if you’re lucky you might catch the synchronous fireflies that blanket the park between mid-May and mid-June.
Another favorite in the area is Poinsett State Park – which is a bit further out of town, but the beautiful drive makes it more than worth it. Nicknamed the “Mountains of the Midlands”, I spent a low-key afternoon here kayaking and hiking. I’d love to go back and rent a cabin to spend more time exploring.
If you are looking for water, don’t be fooled by Colombia’s landlocked location in the middle of the state – it has plenty. Lake Murray is just outside Columbia, and at 41 miles long and 14 miles wide as its widest point – there is room for just about anything from boating, to paddleboarding, swimming, birdwatching to camping, and hiking (I recommend Dreher Island State Park).
It’s also home to one of the most fascinating natural wonders I’ve encountered while traveling – the Purple Martin Phenomenon. Every summer from late June to August around a million Purple Martins take a migration pit stop on Bomb Island on Lake Murray. I took a boat tour and the captain told me that they’ve been roosting on the island every year but one since at least the ’80s. No one seems to know exactly why – or why they stayed away that one summer – but the phenomenon is just the kind of magic I look for on these trips. Estimated to be the largest purple martin roost on the continent, you can book a boat tour to see for yourself.
Father’s Day is just around the corner and restaurant reservations in the Columbia area have filled up fast.But not to worry!There are still some high-ranked restaurants in the city with reservations open on Father’s Day Sunday where you can take dear old dad, according to OpenTable. And there’s variety too, from Brazilian and Italian, to traditional American and seafood.So, how about forgoing the basic tie this year and gift your d...
Father’s Day is just around the corner and restaurant reservations in the Columbia area have filled up fast.
But not to worry!
There are still some high-ranked restaurants in the city with reservations open on Father’s Day Sunday where you can take dear old dad, according to OpenTable. And there’s variety too, from Brazilian and Italian, to traditional American and seafood.
So, how about forgoing the basic tie this year and gift your dad a tasty meal?
Here are 7 high-ranked restaurants in Columbia that still have open reservations for Father’s Day.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (2,961 reviews)
Cuisine: American, Southern
Address: 751 Saluda Ave.
Saluda’s can be found just steps away from the University of South Carolina’s campus in the heart of Five Points. Open since 1996, the restaurant offers a menu that mingles classically prepared dishes with cutting-edge techniques. The menu is built around mixing locally-grown seasonal and luxurious ingredients. Saluda’s offers Southern cuisine with French and Italian influences.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (3,126 reviews)
Cuisine: Contemporary American, fusion/creole, cajun, Southern
Address: 920 Gervais St.
For more than 20 years, Motor Supply has served New World cuisine, using classic French culinary techniques, in the historic Congaree Vista.
The kitchen’s handwritten menus change daily and feature contemporary American cuisine, with nods to creole, cajun, Southern, French and Asian styles.
The restaurant uses meats, dairy and produce from local, sustainable farms. Seafood is caught off the South Carolina coast. There’s also an extensive selection of wines, beer and cocktails available.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (358 reviews)
Address: 1621 Main St.
If you enjoy spending time on Main Street, then The Grand is the place for you. The restaurant offers a traditional fine dining experience. You can sip cocktails at the bar and then eat outside on Main Street or relax on the back patio. After your meal, take dad to The Grand’s boutique bowling alley or dessert lounge in the Robinson Room, found in a hidden lower level of the restaurant.
Rating: 4.5 out 5 (1,208 reviews)
Cuisine: American, seafood, steak
Address: 401 Main St.
Located in Union Station, a historic train station, California Dreaming offers a mix of American classic in a large, family-friendly atmosphere. Every dish is prepared from scratch daily, such as honey-butter croissants, baby back ribs and the California Dreaming Salad.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (281 reviews)
Cuisine: American, oyster bar
Address: 1643 Main St.
Smoked is an upscale fine dining restaurant in a reimagined 19th century mercantile that offers various seafood and pork dishes and steaks. There is also an oyster bar with a variety of offerings, from chargrilled oysters to ones with smoked pork and melted cheeses.
And inside Smoked in a microbrewery that rotates a selection of craft beers, ciders, seltzers and nitro coffees.
Rating: 4.2 out of 5 (1,269 reviews)
Address: 1508 Main St.
Cowboy Brazilian Steakhouse offers a unique, all you can eat ‘Churrascaria,’ that features a full salad bar, 6 hot Brazilian-flavored dishes and a selection of 16 USDA Prime cuts of beef, chicken, pork and lamb sliced at your table. The restaurant offers outdoor seating on Main Street.
And along with a full bar, there’s a walk-in wine cellar with selections from Argentina, Chile and California.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (575 reviews)
Address: 461-4 Town Center Place
The privately-owned Blue Fin describes itself as an upscale restaurant with a laid back atmosphere. The restaurant offers the taste of Charleston with a Metropolitan flair in Columbia.
The restaurant offers a variety of seafood dishes, from grilled salmon to pan seared bass. But it also offers steaks, pasta dishes, burgers and sandwiches.
This story was originally published June 16, 2022 10:40 AM.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - At a time when state leaders on both sides of the aisle say access to mental health services in schools is more important than ever, South Carolina is struggling to keep up with a growing need.A recent audit found most of the state’s public schools lack access to a counselor, and critical services like crisis counseling are even scarcer....
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - At a time when state leaders on both sides of the aisle say access to mental health services in schools is more important than ever, South Carolina is struggling to keep up with a growing need.
A recent audit found most of the state’s public schools lack access to a counselor, and critical services like crisis counseling are even scarcer.
Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order earlier this year, requesting that audit into school mental health services, and it was completed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which sets Medicaid reimbursement rates for these services.
According to DHHS, schools are facing a two-pronged issue: The need for mental health services among students continues to grow, while the number of counselors available to them has fallen.
“When you’re talking about a crisis with children, you’re talking about a crisis today, but you’re talking about a crisis that affects the future of the state,” DHHS Director of Communications and Public Relations Jeff Leieritz said.
The statewide audit found mental health services are currently available in fewer than half of South Carolina’s public schools at a ratio of one counselor for roughly every 1,300 students, which DHHS Director Robbie Kerr called “unacceptable” in his letter to McMaster, presenting the review’s findings.
“Our goal is to cut that ratio in half over the next year, and then eventually cut that in half again,” Leieritz said, adding their goal is to have a counselor in every school in the state.
Most of the state’s school-based counselors are employed through the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, and the audit found the system is set up to incentivize schools to use these counselors.
The current Medicaid reimbursement rate that DMH-enrolled counselors receive, of $77 for a half-hour session, is more than double the $37 rate a private provider receives.
DHHS believes giving schools more freedom and choice to hire private counselors will help increase access to services, Leieritz said.
Among Kerr’s recommendations to improve these services, the department plans to eliminate those rate disparities, with increased rates for non-DMH counselors set to go into effect July 1.
“There are counselors out there now that could provide that service but don’t because of that rate disparity,” Leieritz said.
It also recommends using telehealth to increase access to services and considering a three-year phase-in to require school counselors to be fully licensed.
While that is already a requirement for private counselors who work in schools, DMH counselors are excepted from the requirement.
The audit also found the need for immediate crisis services is rising at schools.
But those services can be hard to come by, with counselors so stretched thin already, especially if they work in multiple schools, oftentimes leaving untrained teachers and school staff to respond.
DHHS hopes by increasing the number of counselors overall, it can free up more of them to handle crisis situations.
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