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New center opens to fix 'probably one of the most underserved areas in health care'

The South Strand Behavior Center accepts people suffering from Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and thought disorders. It's the first and only center for mental health associated with a hospital in Horry County. (Taggart Houck/WPDE)

Before Friday in Horry County, if you were suffering from a mental health issue, you could go to the Emergency Room. There, doctors said, you might spend up to 50 hours waiting for help.

But a brand new facility has just opened, ready for patients battling those issues. And it's designed to get them help right away.

The South Strand Behavior Center accepts people suffering from Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia and thought disorders. It's the first and only center for mental health associated with a hospital in Horry County.

"Mental health is probably one of the most underserved areas in health care," said Dr. Christina Lynn, the Center's Medical Director.

The Horry County native has seen her fair share of mental health patients in Horry County.

She said last year alone, 3,900 people looked for help at the Grand Strand Medical Center's Emergency Room.

"Often times, people would be stuck in an emergency room for 20-30 hours sitting there without effective treatment as we tried to get them into facilities throughout the state," said Lynn.

Doctors would send people away to Greenville, Spartanburg and Columbia...but that's not ideal.

"That's three or four hours away from here so families can't be a part of treatment or care. Now they can be, we're here in the community," she said.

People can stay close to home in the new 16,000 square foot center.

"You'll see your doctor but you'll work with a social worker, a case manager, you'll be in group therapy, you'll be in individual therapy so your day is really packed full of different activities," said Lynn.

It took more than two years to build the center from ideas to the 20 beds inside.

Mental health disorders are a nationwide problem. One for every 20 Americans 12 years or older reported depression, according to most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Lynn said it's also a problem in Horry County.

"I think with 3,900 people coming through the Emergency Room, 20 beds is small, but at least it's a start," she said.

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