COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – COVID-19 not only had a negative impact on the economy and education in the state, but it has also had an impact on a health crisis the state was already dealing with, opioids.
Isolation and lack of access to health care are just two reasons the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on the opioid treatment services and patients in the state.
Before COVID-19 South Carolina was dealing with an opioid crisis and now the pandemic has created more issues.
“With the contributing factors of COVID-19 to unemployment, low income isolation and supply chain issues we are seeing a staggering uptick in the number of people reverting to old habits,” said Rep. Russell Fry, House Opioid Prevention Study Committee.
That uptick here in South Carolina is a 50% increase in the number of opioid overdose responses this year compared to 2019, there has also been an increase in areas the department of alcohol and other drug abuse service originally did not have on their radar.
“We saw rural Marlboro County and rural Chester County, very rural population, small population, we had never seen issues in those places, but in just two weeks we saw a number of overdose responses,” said Sara Goldsby of the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services.
6,500 boxes of Narcan, the overdose reversal drug, have been sent out to help the state respond to the uptick.
Counties have also been given money for cell phones to connect patients with treatment centers and holding community events to raise awareness.
Goldsby said, “They had drive by events, drive by learn how to reverse an overdose and administer Narcan, and how to get rid of unused medications at home.”
Moving forward the easiest solution for the state right now is increasing telehealth services and treatment resources to keep patients engaged.
“Addiction is a disease of isolation and certainly that is very true here as we’ve seen,” said Rep. Fry.
Daodas expects to have mortality data related to opioid overdoses in September.
A closer breakdown of the increase the state is seeing, in 2019 between April and June the EMS and law enforcement responded to an average of 504 cases. This year for the same time period their has been an average of 852 opioid overdose responses.