MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Last Tuesday's community meeting addressing the need for additional resources to combat the area's heroin epidemic has sparked the need for a second meeting, according to Myrtle Beach police and fire officials.
One call a day comes into EMS for heroin overdose victims in Myrtle Beach, according to the fire department. With your help and the input from the almost 500 people who attended the meeting, officials are working to put a plan into action to hit the epidemic head on in new ways.
One way is to team up law enforcement with local recovery centers. New partnerships with the Waccamaw Center for Mental Health and Shoreline Behavioral Health will help police and fire departments know who to call and what to do when they answer a 911 overdose call. According to law enforcement and the Waccamaw Center's Corrie Linton, that's not always clear.
"It's imperative that we all work together; it's not just mental health, law enforcement, or the fire department or the community. I hope it increases our collaboration to fix this problem because it's going to take more than one entity to do that," Linton said. "We don't know everything that law enforcement knows and law enforcement doesn't know everything that we know."
Jon Coffin works for Shoreline Behavioral Health. He told WMBF News reporter Meredith Helline he hopes the new, closer partnerships with law enforcement will lead to more treatment of addicts who are arrested, instead of incarceration for less serious crimes.
Coffin said heroin and opioid used to be at the bottom of the list of admissions for Shoreline Behavioral Health, now it's at the top with the most common addictions like alcohol and marijuana abuse. Now, crack and cocaine are the less common admissions.
Linton presented at the Myrtle Beach community meeting on heroin at Base Recreation Center last Tuesday. She said she was surprised by the overwhelming amount of people that showed up. At the meeting, law enforcement gave staggering statistics to the audience of overdose calls and death increases for 2016. "I don't know if they knew how bad it was, and honestly I don't know if a lot of us knew how bad it was," Linton said in reflection to the statistics.
According to the Horry County Coroner's Office, 72 people died from heroin in 2015. The community is already more than halfway to that mark for 2016. The fire department has answered at least one call per day for a person suffering from a heroin overdose recently. The statistic, however, only counts the times they have had to use Narcan. The drug is used to bring people back from the brink of death.
Linton said now that the problem has been addressed, she hopes the next meeting will focus in depth on the resources available to fight it.
One resource is school-based mental health. The program is currently in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg County schools. She said almost every Horry County high school is provided one therapist, and the elementary, intermediate and middle schools have access to therapy as well.
The program is intended to address issues in a student's life, mental health or not, to teach them how to cope with problems and problems at home. Linton said they've seen a decrease in school discipline and better academic performance since school- based mental health started years ago. But, the amount of kids they're seeing has gone up.
She said not only are kids toying with drugs more, but family members are more active users and if kids can't overcome problems at home, they won't succeed in school.
"Kids are learning from other kids how to cope, how to deal and they're starting to use drugs very early...and if we address these skills ahead of time, so they can learn them and not use drugs, I think that will make a huge difference as well," Linton said.
Parents don't have to take off of work and kids don't have to miss class to receive therapy.
Those who need help or want to report suspicious activity in their neighborhood can call (843) 790-DRUG or (843) 488-4351.
Related: MBPD Community Heroin Meeting