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Lawmakers pre-file slew of bills to take on opioid epidemic

Through October, DAODAS has tallied 7,408 suspected overdoses, which is 49% higher than the...
Through October, DAODAS has tallied 7,408 suspected overdoses, which is 49% higher than the 2019 mark through October (4,964).((Source: WIS))
Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 8:29 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - While COVID-19 has dominated the 2020 headlines, the nation’s opioid epidemic hasn’t gone anywhere.

It’s gotten worse.

S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services provided WIS with a graph showing the rising number of suspected overdoses in the state.

Through October, DAODAS has tallied 7,408 suspected overdoses, which is 49% higher than the 2019 mark through October (4,964).

DAODAS data also shows the number of total overdose deaths in South Carolina has climbed yearly from 2014 through 2019. The 2020 figures are not yet available.

Here are the total overdose death figures by county, and then by state:

To address the rising toll of overdoses in South Carolina, a group of lawmakers including Rep. Russell Fry (R-Horry County) pre-filed a series of bills on December 9 to address the epidemic.

The bills cover education, law enforcement, and access to life-saving drugs, part of what Fry called a “holistic” approach.

“Any which way that we can provide resources from a financial side, any which way we can provide policy intiatives, changes in the law, we’re trying to do that to address this,” he said.

The bills are described on the state legislatures website as follows:

Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs

H. 3362 (Word version) -- Reps. Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 44-6-115 SO AS TO REQUIRE MEDICAID HEALTH PLANS TO ENSURE ACCESS TO APPROPRIATE CLINICAL SERVICES FOR THE EFFECTIVE TREATMENT OF OPIOID USE DISORDERS, INCLUDING ACCESS TO MEDICATIONS.

Referred to Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry

H. 3363 (Word version) -- Reps. Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 44-53-370, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO DRUG OFFENSES, SO AS TO CONFORM THE LANGUAGE OF TRAFFICKING IN ILLEGAL DRUGS PROVISIONS, INCLUDING OPIATES AND HEROIN, TO THE LANGUAGE OF THE PROVISIONS CONCERNING POSSESSION AND DISTRIBUTION OF CERTAIN ILLEGAL DRUGS WHICH WOULD INCLUDE SYNTHETIC OPIATES, AMONG OTHER DRUGS.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 3364 (Word version) -- Reps. Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 16-3-60, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER, SO AS TO REVISE THE DEFINITION OF INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER TO INCLUDE THE SALE OR DELIVERY OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES, THEIR ANALOGUES, OR OTHER UNLAWFUL SUBSTANCES THAT CAUSE THE DEATH OF THE USER WHEN INGESTED, AND TO PROVIDE A PENALTY.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 3365 (Word version) -- Reps. Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 44-53-720, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO RESTRICTIONS ON THE USE OF METHADONE, SO AS TO AUTHORIZE CERTAIN HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONERS TO ADMINISTER OR DISPENSE METHADONE OR OTHER NARCOTIC TREATMENT MEDICATIONS TO PATIENTS OF NARCOTIC TREATMENT PROGRAMS, TO ESTABLISH CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS FOR NARCOTIC TREATMENT PROGRAMS WITH OR WITHOUT RETAIL PHARMACIES, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs

H. 3366 (Word version) -- Reps. Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 44-53-361 SO AS TO REQUIRE PRESCRIBERS TO OFFER A PRESCRIPTION FOR NALOXONE TO A PATIENT UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Referred to Committee on Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs

H. 3367 (Word version) -- Reps. Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham, Alexander and Pope: A BILL TO AMEND SECTIONS 44-53-190 AND 44-53-370, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING IN PART TO THE TRAFFICKING OFFENSES FOR CERTAIN CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES, SO AS TO ADD A DEFINITION FOR “FENTANYL-RELATED SUBSTANCES” AND TO ADD AN OFFENSE FOR “TRAFFICKING IN FENTANYL”.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 3368 (Word version) -- Reps. Hewitt, Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 44-53-160, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE PROCESS FOR MAKING CHANGES TO CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE SCHEDULES, SO AS TO AUTHORIZE THE DIRECTOR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL TO ADD A SUBSTANCE TO SCHEDULE I TEMPORARILY TO PROTECT PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 3369 (Word version) -- Reps. Weeks, Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTIONS 17-5-135 AND 17-5-250 SO AS TO REQUIRE, AMONG OTHERS, CORONERS AND MEDICAL EXAMINERS TO COMPLETE CONTINUING EDUCATION ON THE IDENTIFICATION OF DEATHS CAUSED BY OPIATES.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 3370 (Word version) -- Reps. Weeks, Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING CHAPTER 50 TO TITLE 44 SO AS TO ENACT THE “COMMUNITY-LAW ENFORCEMENT PARTNERSHIP FOR DEFLECTION AND SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER TREATMENT ACT”; TO AUTHORIZE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TO ESTABLISH DEFLECTION PROGRAMS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH TREATMENT FACILITIES AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS TO FACILITATE SUBSTANCE USE DISORDER TREATMENT FOR CERTAIN PERSONS COMMITTING OFFENSES INSTEAD OF ARREST AND ADDITIONAL JUSTICE SYSTEM INVOLVEMENT; TO PROVIDE DEFINITIONAL TERMS; AND TO CREATE CERTAIN IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETE A DEFLECTION PROGRAM AND FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES WHEN IMPLEMENTING DEFLECTION PROGRAMS IN GOOD FAITH.

Referred to Committee on Judiciary

H. 3371 (Word version) -- Reps. West, Fry, Huggins, Dillard, Hewitt, Pendarvis, Trantham and Alexander: A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 63-7-310, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO MANDATED REPORTING OF SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT, SO AS TO REQUIRE REPORTING WHEN AN INFANT OR FETUS IS EXPOSED TO ALCOHOL OR CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES.

House Bill 3366 would require physicians to offer co-prescriptions of Naloxone, a life-saving and overdose-reversing drug in certain situations where opioids are prescribed.

Currently, Naloxone is available without a prescription through pharmacies and recovery centers. The bill would not change that, but Fry said it could still make a difference on access and use.

“This is something that is, in my view, very easy to do. When people have a prior issue with substance use disorder, when they have a high dose or when they’re co-prescribed benzodiazepine with their opioid, having access to this drug in your medicine cabinet could prevent a death,” he said.

DAODAS Director Sara Goldsby said the passage of the bill would kickstart valuable discussions.

“That conversation alone is going to shift some of these norms around the provider and patient relationship when it comes to these narcotics,” she said, “so we think it’ll be a benefit on the whole.”

House Bills 3363, 3364, and 3367 would strengthen punishments for drug dealers who are either caught with more than four grams of the substances listed or whose drugs are responsible for an overdose death.

Midlands Recovery Center Executive Director Bobby Brazell said he supports going after drug traffickers, but there could be unintended consequences for the bills.

“There’s got to be a distinction between someone who sells a little bit to support their personal use, and a distinction between them and someone who is obviously trafficker or a big-time dealer,” he said. “That can make a difference in who we can help. If someone thinks they’re going to get arrested or they’re going to get charged because they’ve sold a couple bags of heroin they’re not going to reach out for help because they’re going to get arrested for that.”

Fry said the 4-gram threshold should delineate traffickers.

When it comes to the future of the bills, Fry said the issue of overdose deaths is bipartisan and impacts people across the state.

He said he hopes that unity will carry the bills through the session.

The legislative session begins on January 12.

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