South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster joined a national effort to curb the rising death toll of the opioid epidemic on Monday by declaring a statewide public health emergency, reports the Hilton Head Island, S.C. Packet. “According to the statistics, there’s a silent hurricane going on in our state that hits us and it’s getting worse,” McMaster said. “It hits us every year, and it’s called the opioid crisis.” McMaster established an “opioid emergency response team,” consisting of state and federal law enforcement agencies, state health regulatory agencies and health care treatment providers, which will hold bi-monthly meetings “to assess outcomes and evaluate new information.” The governor ordered the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services to limit opioid prescriptions for acute and post-operative pain to a maximum of five days for state Medicaid recipients. He asked the general assembly to make the five-day limit statewide for all opioid prescriptions.
“We believe this is the way to conquer this crisis. In fact, it’s the only way,” McMaster said. “Part of this will also rely on getting public participation — churches, synagogues, Rotary clubs, everyone in the medical field. (Everyone) needs to be alert and aware of the overprescription and abuse that this substance causes … there’s no telling how much it’s costing this state, not just in pain and misery but in actual dollars.” In South Carolina, opioid-related deaths increased 21 percent from 2014 to 2016. Opioid deaths have nearly doubled the total of homicides and drunken driving deaths. State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, chairman of the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee, who lost his son to an overdose involving fentanyl last year, said, “These people who find themselves addicted to this medication and even the illegal drugs are not morally corrupt individuals. These are people who have a disease and need help.”