Rose files bill in wake of teen escapes


COLUMBIA -- An existing South Carolina law does not go far enough to protect residents against the threat that violent out-of-state mental health patients can pose on local communities, state Sen. Mike Rose said Friday.

Rose called the state's Interstate Compact on Mental Health "flawed and inadequate" to deal with a situation similar to the April 20 escape at the Palmetto Summerville Behavioral Health treatment center when four Washington, D.C., youths fled the facility, including 19-year-old Delonte Parker, who reportedly had been charged with attempted murder.

Parker was captured Wednesday in Maryland. The other three were apprehended on Dorchester Road the day after their escape.

"This is a wake-up call," said Rose, R-Summerville. "I conclude from my investigation that the existing laws are not adequate to protect the citizens of South Carolina. We're going to change that.

"If Washington is sending their problems to us, who else is sending their problems to us? New York? Philadelphia?"

Rose filed legislation Thursday to put more protections in place for South Carolina residents. His bill is similar to one introduced in the House this week by Republican Reps. Jenny Anderson Horne and Chris Murphy, both of Summerville, and Chip Limehouse of Charleston.

Both bills aim to ban, or at minimum restrict, violent out-of-state offenders -- especially sexual predators -- from being treated at South Carolina-based facilities. The bills also call for facilities to follow certain steps to notify law enforcement of an escape.

Currently, treatment facilities, such as Palmetto Summerville Behavioral Health, are under little government oversight.

Rose said he also wants to see the facilities, not the government, pay for any costs associated with an escape.

He intends to hold public hearings to gain more insight into the situation and determine how far the state can go within constitutional boundaries to draft new restrictions.