State Senate subcommittee held after the death of two mental health patients in Hurricane Florence flooding

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Columbia, S.C. (WOLO) – A State Senate subcommittee took a look at what needs to change after two mental health patients died while being escorted by law enforcement officers who went around barricades during Hurricane Florence.

Both families say there were so many ways the death of their loved ones could have been avoided, from letting the family know they could’ve transported their loved ones themselves, to making sure law enforcement officers don’t treat mental health patients like criminals.

Wendy Newton and Nicolette Green’s family and attorneys addressed the Senate subcommittee meeting for Mental Health Initiatives to talk about changes that could have saved the two women’s lives.

According to State Law Enforcement Division Chief, Mark Keel, two Horry County corrections officers had an approved route to transport the women during Hurricane Florence, but instead the two officers drove around barricades which resulted in the drowning death of Newton and Green.

According to Newton’s family attorney, the officers who were transporting the women weren’t trained in mental health care, or equipped for the situation. He says the women were trapped in a “jail cell on wheels” and the officers who were trying to get them out didn’t have the key.

“They got to her, she was alive. They got the back door open, and they had to meet her eyes and hers theirs when they could not get her out of that cage as the water rose.” Tommy Brittain said, “That’s one of serious problems here. And that’s beyond their mistake.”

The deaths have been especially hard on the families after they say they had no idea they could have transported their loved ones. Green’s daughter Rose said she was free all day and would’ve been able to take her mom wherever she needed to go and avoid this situation all together.

The subcommittee chairman, Senator Marlon Kimpson says he’s not a gambler, but if he was, he’d bet that something will change very quickly. He hopes to have new legislation drafted before general session starts up in January.

SLED says they’re finishing up the investigative report and will give that to the solicitor once it’s completed.

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