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State launches new task force to promote higher quality of life for South Carolinians

The members are made up of people from different organizations like hospitals, colleges, advocacy groups and other entities in the state.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has started a new task force to help improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.

The task force has been named SHaPE SC, which stands for Task Force to Strengthen the Health and Promote the Environment of South Carolina. Their motto is, "Helping SHaPE a better future of health and environmental services for all South Carolinians."

SCDHEC's board made the decision to create this task force back in April.

According to SCDHEC, the task force will be, "evaluating and making recommendations on the organizational framework and responsibilities related to the provision of health and environmental protection services in South Carolina."

Dr. Edward Simmer, the agency director, says this is something they needed to create.

"I think it's needed because one, we haven't done this in a long time. DHEC has been around for 48 years and we've certainly changed a lot during those 48 years," said Dr. Simmer.

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The task force is made up of 51 people. That number could grow in the next couple of weeks. The members are made up of people from different organizations like hospitals, colleges, advocacy groups and other entities in the state.

Bernie Hawkins is the facilitator for the task force.

"It's to look at what things are currently working, what things need to be improved, what the challenges are going forward over the next number of years to deliver those services and continuing to deliver them in the efficient and meaningful manner that they've been delivered in the past," explained Hawkins.

There are three different types of subcommittees within the task force. This includes environmental protection, health, and mental health and substance abuse.

Dr. Simmer and Hawkins had several takeaways from Thursday's meeting.

"We need to focus on communication, collaborating across agencies and across organizations," explained Dr. Simmer. "Really working together in a collaborative fashion is going to be very important."

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Another takeaway they had included the importance of having the right resources. 

"I heard a lot of appreciation for what the folks in DHEC do on a daily basis, including the way they've handled this COVID-19 crisis and the cooperation that existed between the environmental groups and the health side of DHEC," said Hawkins.

The initial subcommittee meetings will begin in two weeks. The next full task force meeting will be scheduled by the end of June.

A presentation and report will follow in the Fall of 2021 to be given to the Governor, Legislature and the Board.

Those in the public who would like to provide feedback to the task force, they are asked to email shapesc@dhec.sc.gov. The department says all comments will be made available to committee members and will also be posted online.

For more information on the task force, click here.

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