Is there a drug problem in Richland and Lexington counties? New billboards offer ‘help’

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - New numbers show some encouraging and not-so-encouraging news about opioid overdoses in the Midlands.

As of November, 38 people have died in Lexington County this year, the coroner's office says that's up from 33 last year.

There has been a large drop in Richland County. Richland County coroner records up to October 2018 show that 32 people have died, down from 88 in 2017.

Despite the drop in Richland County, one business says there's a drug problem and they want to fix it. Lexington Treatment Specialists have put up 22 billboards near and around Richland and Lexington Counties.

The board says “Beat the Addiction” and advertises methadone and suboxone, drugs used to treat withdrawal symptoms in opiates like heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl. One of the billboards is located off of Bluff Road, another on River Drive in Columbia. Some, like Eddie Pillz, do not support the message.

"I don't agree with this man at all, especially not in my neighborhood," Pillz said.

"They know drugs and crime are in this area so why not get in where they can fit in and add their own drug?"

So why the River Drive location? Alan Laszczynski, a co-owner of Lexington Treatment Specialists, a new facility in West Columbia, says there is a drug problem in the area.

“Oh, I know there is. It’s kind of hard to look at the news and statistics without seeing all the people dying of overdoses," Laszczynski said. "I mean I think one overdose death is too many. But the main thing is getting our name out there so people know we’re here."

The owner of the company, Brent Brady, says he will put up more ads that simply reflect what spots are open.

While opioid-related deaths in Richland County have gone down, Corner Gary Watts says there is still room for concern.

"It's still a significant number, it's one a week basically," Watts said.

We showed him the billboard, his response?

"It's not going to be stopped strictly by law enforcement. It's not going to be stopped. I think it's going to take a consortium in which people try to come together," Watts said.

All of that might include getting possible solutions in your face.

In regards to the methadone, it will be taken at the treatment facility to start out with and doses are given to take home as treatment progress then there are other services offered like counseling. The ultimate goal is to help bead addiction and help people overcome the stigma of getting help.

The treatment organization LRADAC in Columbia has seen the number of those looking for treatment from opiates slowly rising. In 2017, the agency provided services for 980 individuals who reported opiate misuse or were diagnosed with an opiate use disorder.

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