HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The people taking care of student-athletes have received a special type of training to be proactive against one of the biggest epidemics sweeping the country.
Athletic trainers with Horry County Schools learned how to safely identify, handle and report any questionable substance found in school during training with Grand Strand Hospital and the Horry County Police Department.
Dr. Jim Berry is a teacher and the head athletic trainer with Conway High School. He said he and a few others decided to team up with an emergency room doctor and narcotics police officers to better train athletic trainers as the drug epidemic becomes more evident in communities.
Fentanyl is causing overdoses across the nation, even leading to accidental overdoses by non-drug users who come in contact with it. Berry said finding drugs in school athletic facilities is not an issue in the county, but it's a big enough issue in the community to work with other leaders to help solve the problem.
Berry said athletic trainers often serve as the primary health provider for student-athletes in the county.
"I know, personally, I monitor very carefully our athletes that have had some sort of surgical procedure and have been prescribed pain medication because we want to get them off that pain medication as quickly as we can because it is so addictive," Berry said. "And our physicians that we work with are very good about that as well."
Berry said Horry County Schools' 21 athletic trainers also help in battling the drug epidemic by getting student-athletes off of post-surgery pain medications as soon as possible.
Only the school nurse has permission to administer a prescription during school, as students cannot carry them, according to Berry.
Fentanyl can be deadly. Berry said from now on, questionable substances found will only be handled by administrators if necessary, and gloves will be worn. Otherwise, it will be reported and police will be called.
"Because if it's laced with fentanyl, all you got to do is touch that pill and you'll have (an) almost immediate overdose because of the skin uptake. So what we have cautioned, and what Sgt. delPercio cautioned us to do, is if we come across an unknown substance - a pill, a powder, whatever - is to use extreme caution when dealing with that stuff.," Berry said.
This is the first times athletic trainers have taken part in a fentanyl informational course. Berry said he thinks other teachers and staffs would benefit from it as well.