Gov. Henry McMaster calls the opioid epidemic a “silent hurricane,” because people rarely hear it, but it causes just as much damage when it comes to human life.
Today, McMaster and Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services director Sara Goldsby announced a new initiative and website, called justplainkillers.com, to help stem the tide of the opioid crisis in the state by giving S.C. residents information and education.
“Opioids are important, but when misused, they can become killers,” Goldsby said. “This public education campaign is to give South Carolinians a home for information on safe storage, safe disposal and the safe use of prescription drugs.”
The campaign also includes a commercial that will begin running throughout the state later this month. Goldsby said the money used for the spot came from an award from the 21st-Century Cures Act in response to the opioid crisis.
McMaster said opioids are deceptive and dangerous. In December, he established an opioid emergency response team, which he said is making progress with meetings and discussions.
The governor issued an executive order limiting state Medicaid recipients to five-day initial prescriptions for acute and post-operative pain medications. At McMaster’s request, the state Public Employee Benefit Authority agreed to enact similar restrictions for state health plan participants.
McMaster has asked the General Assembly to make the five-day limitation state law.
“We’ve found that five days is the dangerous line,” McMaster said.
Department of Health and Environmental Control statistics report 550 people died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2016 in South Carolina, a 7% increase from 2015 and up 18% from 2014. Fatal heroin overdoses increased by 67% from 2014 to 2015, a year that also saw the number of deaths from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses in the state eclipse the number of homicides. Many people turn to illegal heroin when prescription opioids are no longer available, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The governor also mapped out funds from his newly released budget that target the opioid crisis. Those initiatives include:
- $4.35 million to the Department of Health and Human Services for new opioid treatment clinics throughout the state.
- $1.25 million to DAODAS for enhanced response to opioid use disorder.
- $1 million to DHEC for prescription drug monitoring.
- $484,416 for new vice personnel at SLED for augmented opioid response.
The budget must be approved by the General Assembly.
State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, put a human face on the crisis after losing his son to a drug overdose almost 18 months ago. He called the new initiative a tremendous step forward to remove the stigma on the opioid situation in the state and nationwide.
“I stand here today as an example of a family that has been affected in a negative way,” Bedingfield said. “Don’t look at me as Eric Bedingfield, but rather as an example of those 660 families that can’t be here doing what I’m doing. We support the governor’s agenda and hope to take those matters a step further in the General Assembly.”
Goldsby said the campaign is a call to all citizens in the state to become involved and to create change.