Gov. Henry McMaster’s staff announced Wednesday he will host a group of health care and drug addiction experts at an opioid summit next month.
The governor said in a release Wednesday that it is more critical than ever that to bring together every group that has a stake in the opioid crisis to combat what is one of the deadliest health issues the state has faced in a generation.
“This tragic epidemic has already torn apart too many families, and I’m confident that South Carolina will come together, as it always has, to provide the support necessary to save lives.” McMaster said in the statement.
Keynote speakers for the Opioid Summit will include McMaster and Dr. Bertha K. Madras of Harvard Medical School, who was recently named to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The event will also feature sessions which promote cross-sector connection, communication, and collaboration.
The release said that in 2015, there were 594 opioid-related overdose deaths in South Carolina vs. 311 homicides – a 17% increase from the number of opioid deaths in 2014. Also in 2015, 5,702 patients were discharged from emergency departments (EDs) with issues related to opioid abuse/dependence, and 2,398 were discharged from EDs with issues related to opioid overdose/poisoning. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 135% increase in service utilization at state-funded substance use disorder treatment programs for individuals looking for help with an opioid use disorder – from 2,469 in 2006 to 5,803 in 2016.
The summit will be held Sept. 6-7 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
Gov. Nikki Haley created a similar Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council in 2014 to address the misuse of opioid painkillers. The panel ultimately made 62 recommendations on ways state agencies and lawmakers could combat the growing epidemic. Earlier this year, McMaster signed one of the biggest changes approved by legislators which requires physicians check an online database to see a patient’s prescription history before prescribing the medication.
For information about the Summit and to register visit www.scopioidsummit.org.