Although South Carolina’s legislature passed more than a dozen laws in its last session addressing opioid abuse, a Grand Strand representative says more needs to be done.
State Rep. Russell Fry, R-Surfside Beach, served on the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee. He said most of the laws passed in 2017 and 2018 focused more on prevention education, so now the committee is trying to handle the connection between drug abuse and mental health.
“In order to properly address opioids in South Carolina and drug abuse in South Carolina, you really need to hit the underlying cause, which is mental health,” he said. “Some of the recommendations that we’ll be coming out with in January will echo some of those sentiments.”
The 2019-2020 Legislative Session begins Tuesday. Three of eight drug-related prefiled bills relate to opioids.
Fry co-chaired the study committee before it released its final report last year. He will likely take more of a leadership role in 2019 after his fellow co-chair Phyllis Henderson was defeated in last year’s Republican primary.
Fry said the General Assembly has been supportive of the bills the committee drafted so far, which include requiring a prescribing doctor to check a patient’s previous pain medication history and requiring parental consent and education before a teen can be prescribed opioid painkillers.
“The legislature was very willing over the last couple years to really address this,” Fry said. “We’ve passed more than a dozen bills and made very significant advances in the budget. I think the focus is going to continue to be on that because it is in every community in every part of this state.”
Fry said, going forward, a key need will be how law enforcement and drug courts interact with addicts or dealers. He also said the committee is working on ways to improve access to care in rural communities through “telemedicine” and other resources.
“Really need to make sure… that we have the same ability to get treatment in a rural area that you do in an urban area,” he said. “I think we’ve had some tremendous success over the last couple of years with that and we continue to focus on that.”