- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - If lawmakers force South Carolina’s disabilities agency to punish providers more severely, they will be less likely to help disabled people, the chairman of the board that runs the agency said.

The agency’s executive director spent two hours being grilled by senators during a budget hearing last month, and that experience didn’t sit well with South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Commission Chairman Bill Danielson.

He especially didn’t like one suggestion from Sen. Thomas Alexander that providers need to face stiffer fines to stop repeated poor decisions and behaviors. Several stories in The Greenville News have pointed out a troubling record of deaths, abuse allegations and financial problems. Audits have found dozens of county disability boards failing to properly manage the money and property of disabled people in their care.

“The only way you can be punitive is to take money away from providers, which takes money away from consumers - which is a no-win situation. We’re going to do what we’re being asked to do, which is provide audits to the legislators, provide all the documentation,” Danielson told The Greenville News (https://grnol.co/2fotGaC ).

He made similar comments to the state agency’s board earlier this month.

Whether the solution involves increased fines or not, action needs to be taken because people are forgetting the disabled clients need to come first, said Sen. Thomas Alexander, who ran the Senate meeting last month.

“I’m not interested in doing things that will become a burden to the providers. But at the same time they are responsible. So there has to be a balance,” said Alexander, R-Walhalla.

Providers are already getting nervous and are less likely to take in vulnerable adults That forced the commission to vote this month to open six group homes that the Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs will run itself, Danielson said.

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Information from: The Greenville News, https://www.greenvillenews.com

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