State News

New South Carolina Department of Public Health launched July 1


The South Carolina Department of Public Health (DPH) officially began operations on July 1st, marking a significant restructuring of the state’s health and environmental oversight. Formed by Act 60, DPH will take over the health responsibilities previously managed by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

“Our name may change, but our commitment to serving and improving the lives of everyone in South Carolina is stronger than ever,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, interim agency director. “DPH will build on DHEC’s legacy, continuously innovating to achieve best practices that help improve our state’s overall health rankings to achieve our goal of becoming the healthiest state in our nation.”

With over 2,900 employees across 90 locations statewide, DPH aims to adopt a people-first approach, ensuring every South Carolinian has the access, resources, and information needed to enhance their health. The department will consist of two core divisions: Health Promotion and Services, and Healthcare Quality. The Health Promotion and Services division will focus on community health and well-being, while the Healthcare Quality division will aim to enhance patient safety and healthcare quality across the state.

The formation of DPH follows a unanimous decision by the South Carolina Legislature and approval by Governor Henry McMaster in May. This change will separate the health and environmental functions of DHEC, which was established in 1973. The environmental responsibilities will now fall under the newly formed Department of Environmental Services (DES).

State legislator Val Guest noted that the split was necessary due to the growing size and complexity of DHEC. “DHEC kept growing and growing,” Guest said. “We realized that there were disconnects within the organization, and it made sense to separate the environmental and health aspects into two distinct agencies.”

The new DPH will inherit DHEC’s authority to enforce health regulations and manage public health crises, including the care and isolation of individuals with communicable diseases. Meanwhile, DES will manage programs related to air quality, coastal resource management, waste management, water resources, and environmental health services.

Laura Renwick, public information officer for DHEC, mentioned that DES will also take on new responsibilities previously handled by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, such as the hydrology program and aquatic nuisance species management.

Dr. Simmer, who currently leads DHEC, will serve as the acting director of DPH. Myra Reece, DHEC’s director of environmental affairs, will head DES. Both agencies will begin their operations on July 1, ensuring a seamless transition for South Carolinians.

“On Day One, those we serve will not see any disruptions to the services that they depend on for good health and peace of mind thanks to our dedicated staff,” Simmer reassured. “Our employees have gone above and beyond to ready us for this transition and ensure that absolutely no one – not those we serve or our employees – falls through the cracks before, during and after this agency transition.”

The new Department of Public Health can be reached online at or by phone at (803) 898-3300.