Anderson County to hear update on opioid lawsuit

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By Stan Welch
In 2015, South Carolina lawmakers passed the South Carolina Overdose Prevention Act, which gave both criminal and civil protections to doctors, pharmacists, first responders, caregivers and law enforcement officers involved in efforts to combat the growing opioid epidemic in the state.
That legislation opened the door for the creation of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officer Narcan (SCLEON) program. Narcan is an antagonist to opioids, which means it counteracts the effects of an overdose, if administered quickly enough. The SCLEON program was established to train officers to administer the Narcan, because the few additional minutes while EMS personnel respond can be critical.
The Greenville Sheriff’s Department, Anderson County EMS, and the West Pelzer Police Department were all key players in the creation of the six man team that has since trained more than 7000 associated personnel in forty three states and forty six counties.
Even as the battle against the opioid crisis across the state and the nation expands, so does the use of the popular drugs, in various forms and combinations. Anderson County first responders answered 200 calls concerning overdoses in 2014. In 2016, the last year statistics are available for, they answered 276. Through the first half of 2018, they had answered 136.
The numbers can be staggering. Fifty deaths by overdose have occurred in Anderson County since 2016. For every thousand babies born, seven are addicted to opioids at birth. Perhaps most startling is the fact that for every one hundred people in the county ninety four prescriptions for opioids are written.
As serious as the heroin and oxycontin issues are, the most dangerous problem are the new synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. Fentanyl is several times stronger than heroin, which is routinely diluted with other substances to increase the profits from sales. Fentanyl is often used in combination with other opioids, which makes the effects unpredictable, and harder to diagnose.
While the greatest cost is, of course, human, there are many other costs as well. The added strain on the EMS system, in the hospitals, and on law enforcement are sizable and relentless. So dire did the situation become that last year, at Chairman Tommy Dunn’s instigation, the county hired an attorney to explore a potential lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry. Other political subdivisions across the state and nation either have, or are contemplating, filing such suits.
County officials received information related to the suit yesterday, Sept. 16, from the attorney and will be discussing it during an executive session during Tuesday’s council meeting. Also at the council meeting. Danny Brown is on the agenda to discuss the establishment of a methadone clinic in the county. Methadone is a substance used as a palliative for opioids.