November 28, 2015

Prescription no longer required for most vaccines at SC pharmacies

Consumers no longer need a prescription to get most major vaccinations at South Carolina pharmacies under new protocols recently approved by the state Board of Medical Examiners.

The protocol was adopted earlier this month, but did not receive much public attention until the University of South Carolina (USC) notified news outlets of the change this week. The new protocol covers vaccines for flu, pneumonia, shingles, human papillomavirus and a half dozen more diseases. Children under 18 will still need a prescription for the vaccines, though children 12 or older can get the flu vaccine without a prescription.

“It means adults will be able to get almost any vaccine without a prescription, which is a huge win for South Carolina patients,” USC clinical pharmacy professor Brandon Bookstaver said. “We’ve seen how increased access for the flu vaccine was a boost for people’s health. This expansion will dramatically increase our ability to prevent the cost and suffering of disease.”

Brookstaver served on an inter-professional committee of pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and a state regulator who recommended the change. Earlier this year, state legislators voted to expand vaccine availability pending the recommendations of the interprofessional committee.

South Carolina had been one of 17 states that required prescriptions for non-influenza vaccines.

The cost of immunization to the consumer depends on their health insurance and the type of vaccine. The pharmacies themselves will decide which vaccines they will carry, although broad availability is expected.

SC prison system bringing in fewer nonviolent offenders, director says

Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling (Image: SCETV)

Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling (Image: SCETV)

The director of South Carolina’s prison system says his agency has reduced its inmate population since a sentencing reform law passed five years ago, but still faces rising costs with those who remain.

Department of Corrections director Bryan Stirling told a legislative oversight committee this week South Carolina has around 20,800 inmates in the system now, down from 25,000 in 2010. The Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act passed in 2010 repealed many of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses and loosened the restrictions on parole supervision, among other changes.

The number of inmates who are being admitted into state corrections facilities for “nonviolent” offenses has dropped by nearly 40 percent from 11,100 in 2009 to around 6,700 in 2014, Stirling told the Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee.

However, Stirling told a legislative panel this week that the violent offense inmates are getting older — and require the care that comes with age. “That population is quite expensive to keep up with medically and everything,” he said. “As we all know, when folks get older, the medical costs go up. We have to do what we can do because there’s a constitutional standard that we have to meet.”

Stirling said there are more than 2,100 inmates over age 55 in the system. ”

Jon Ozmint — who led the Department of Corrections under former Gov. Mark Sanford — said he believes the state Board of Paroles and Pardons needs to consider an inmate’s health condition when granting a conditional release. “We’ve got everybody buying into the intent of sentencing reform except that (Parole) board,” he told the committee. The eight-member board appointed mostly by the legislature is tasked with approving or revoking paroles and pardons, as well as recommending potential pardons.

The state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (PPP) director Jerry Adger estimated his agency has saved nearly $25 million over the past five years by releasing more inmates. The 2010 law allows PPP to reinvest up to 35 percent of those savings into its agency.

Many in South Carolina navigate FEMA flood aid appeals process

Many people in areas of South Carolina hit hard by last month’s flooding are in the process of appealing their denials of aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), even as the deadline to apply fast approaches.

FEMA spokesman Carl Henderson told South Carolina Radio Network that the best way to appeal is to take the rejection letter to a disaster recovery center for an explanation.

“They (the flood victim) certainly have the option to appeal that letter or any part of the letter,” Henderson said. “The easiest way to do that is to go to a disaster recovery century with the letter in hand.”

Henderson said a rejection just could be something minor that can be easily corrected before getting benefits, such as a missing signature, document or something else. “The determination letter is not always the final answer. It could be that FEMA needs a little bit information, they need an additional receipt,” Henderson said.

There is a limited time frame to make an appeal. “The key with determination letters is they have sixty days from the day of the letter to appeal to FEMA, Henderson said.

Those affected by last month’s flooding who have not filed for any individual assistance have until December 4 to apply.


Duke Energy gets 40-year license for Catawba River

Kayakers at the Lake Wylie Dam near Fort Mill -- part of Duke's network in SC (Image: SCDNR)

Kayakers at the Lake Wylie Dam near Fort Mill — part of Duke’s network in SC (Image: SCDNR)

The federal government has approved Duke Energy’s license to manage 225 miles of the Catawba River in North Carolina and South Carolina for another four decades.

The Charlotte Observer reports the license renewal was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Wednesday and made retroactive to Nov. 1. Duke’s license had expired in 2008, but legal challenges from environmental groups forced a long delay in the process as the utility sought an extension.

Duke, a Charlotte-based corporation, had initially sought a 50-year renewal for its 13 hydroelectric stations and 11 reservoirs along the river system.

In exchange for the new license, Duke has agreed to conserve $16 million in land, spend $4 million more in developing public recreation sites and build passages so fish can get around the dam that creates Lake Wateree in South Carolina.

The Catawba River flows slightly west of Charlotte before crossing into South Carolina near Rock Hill and flowing into a string of manmade lakes that ends with Lake Wateree northwest of Camden. The river that flows south of the dam is known as the Wateree River.

Emanuel AME church leaders announce plan for donations after shooting

The Charleston church where nine parishioners were shot and killed in what officials called a racially-motivated attack announced it will share about half of the money donated to it with survivors of the attack and families of those killed.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church announced Wednesday in a press release that it will donate about $1.5 million of the $3.4 million given to it in the wake of the June 17 shooting to the victims’ organization, called Charleston’s Hope Fund. That group has raised nearly $3 million on its own.

Emanuel AME says it will use its share of the donated money for building improvements, a permanent memorial to the nine killed, and five survivors and scholarships and community outreach projects.

On the evening of June 17, Charleston Police say 21 year-old Dylann Roof went into the church and joined a Bible study group with the black parishioners. About an hour later he opened fire on the group, killing nine.

He was arrested by local police in North Carolina the next day, about 240 miles from Charleston.