New program in Myrtle Beach aims to lower opioid overdoses

SC COPE to help reduce overdose deaths

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Amid the ongoing opioid epidemic across the nation, Myrtle Beach is hoping a new statewide initiative can help.

It’s a joint effort between Myrtle Beach Fire and Police departments and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control that aims to save lives long-term.

Nicole Criss knows the dark and deadly path first-hand.

“I had back surgeries and got addicted to pills and then, you know, that’s how my addiction started," said Criss.

Criss is in long-term recovery, and has been since February 2014. She’s now the executive director of Faces and Voices of Recovery Grand Strand. Criss knows the road to recovery can be a difficult one.

“When someone is looking to get into recovery it is so important to be right there when they’re ready because it’s a very small window of opportunity for people to take advantage of help," said Criss.

Now the Myrtle Beach Fire Department is hoping they can help those who may be struggling, using a different approach.

“Obviously you can’t help anybody that doesn’t want help but we’re going to try our best. I think part of the problem is maybe people don’t know how to get help or what they need to do,” said Lt. Jonathan Evans with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department.

A new program called Community Outreach Paramedic Education, or COPE, would allow specially-trained first responders to visit a person in the days following an overdose to offer support and treatment methods.

“If they’ve had an overdose, if they’ve gone to the hospital and get released, we’ll come back and make contact with them again and see if we can do something to help them get off those opioids whether it’s through counseling, rehabilitation or whatever it may be, that we can use to help these people," said Evans.

In all of 2018, first responders with the department administered 191 doses of Narcan to 142 patients. This year so far, they’ve used Narcan 177 times on 123 patients.

Criss said following up with people after an overdose could help make a life changing difference.

“Sometime people just aren’t ready yet, or maybe they’re just testing the water. So having that continuous contact keeps recovery in their face, and reminds them that people do love them and care and want to help them,” Criss said.

Right now eight members of the Myrtle Beach Fire Department are being trained to take part in this initiative. The department hopes to roll out the program in the next month or two.

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