MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach city leaders have hired a local professor to lead a $60,000 study to help fight the opioid epidemic.
"People are dying. We're spending a tremendous amount of resources responding to their overdoses, families are in danger, it's really affecting the fabric of our community. We need to do everything we can do address this addiction problem," said city spokesperson Mark Kruea.
Horry Georgetown Technical College professor Renee Causey will be collecting research for the next 30 days.
"I'm excited about the stand we're going to take. I'm hoping this could be a national model that could be replicated all over the country," said Causey.
The study is being funded by the city of Myrtle Beach, Horry County, the city of Georgetown and Georgetown County, as well as several healthcare providers.
Causey said she's looked at the problem not just here in the Grand Strand, but also in New York and in other countries. Her main goal is to develop a program that's unique to this area. To do that, she will not only be talking to organizations and groups directly working on the epidemic, but also former and current addicts.
"I've been blessed to spend a lot of time with a lot of people who have used heroin and other substances, but I think that's very important that we give them a voice in the study, that they also have a say in what has worked for them and what has not worked for them," Causey said.
Last year, the county had the highest amount of opioid-related deaths. According to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, in 2016, there were 617 opioid-involved deaths in the state. Of that number, 101 were right here in Horry County.
Causey explains how this study will differ from what's already being done.
"I think this is different because we are going to take an intense look. It's going to be coordinated through this study and again, just make recommendations about what doesn't exist," she said.
Something that the Grand Strand doesn't have is a treatment facility. Causey said although it's needed, it's not just as easy as building one.
"If I set up a treatment facility in another area, I might do so based on the fact that there's not any support system outside of the treatment facility. There might not be a halfway house, there might not be an outpatient clinic they can attend, there may not be any additional services. But that's one reason this study is so important, because I will know the systems we have in place to support a facility here," Causey said.
At the end of this study, Causey said she'll have a better idea of what's needed to help battle the local epidemic.
"I feel like this should bring a lot of people hope because I feel very hopeful about the study," she said.