Gov. Henry McMaster on Thursday recognized 15 South Carolina law enforcement agencies for their anti-opioid overdose efforts.
About 2,000 people attended the 2018 Governor’s Opioid Summit in Columbia, which included a recognition ceremony and informational workshops for community leaders, law enforcement officers, health officials and behavioral health administrators. This is the summit’s second year.
“Any time you have that much talent and that much experience in one place attacking the same situation you can make some real progress,” McMaster said. “The progress that we’ve made is reflected in the nine or ten laws that we’ve passed in the last year.”
In December 2017 Governor McMaster declared the opioid epidemic in South Carolina a public health emergency. The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) said 748 people died from opioid-related overdoses last year, a 21 percent increase from a year earlier.
The Opioid Emergency Response Team released the state’s Opioid Emergency Response Plan in June. It focuses on four primary priorities: education and communication, prevention and response, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement coordination.
Legislators approved nine new laws aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic, which included bills increasing education requirements for prescribers, expanding the ability for treatment organizations to distribute the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, and limiting the maximum number of days that an initial opioid-based prescription can be issued to seven.
“I’m very encouraged with the strides that we’ve made and we’re going to make more,” McMaster said.
Meanwhile, roughy 6,600 law enforcement officers in South Carolina have been trained to administer Naloxone. The 15 law enforcement agencies recognized at the summit administered a total of 306 doses to overdose patients.
McMaster said the effort comes from different entities working together. “That is a rare sight to see in any endeavor,” he said. “Those people from all over the state, different stations, different views, different parts of the puzzle or parts of the solution and I am confident that with the determination and dedication in that room, we will get it done.”
When McMaster addressed the conference after lunch, he compared the current effort fighting opioids to Operation Jackpot in the 1980s that targeted four major international drug cartels and led to 133 people indicted on federal drug trafficking charges. Prior to the investigation, nearly $1 billion in drugs were brought into South Carolina for distribution, according to the Governor. McMaster was U.S. Attorney at the time and was one of many agencies involved in the investigation.
“Collaboration, communication and cooperation among the agencies, the private sector people, mom and dad. Schools. The churches. Everybody,” he said. “When everybody realizes this is a problem and they’re willing to add their insight and understanding into it as part of a team, that’s when you get things done.”