CONWAY, SC (WBTW)- The results from a 4-month study assessing the opioid epidemic in Horry and Georgetown County were recently released.
The $60,000 study was done by Horry Georgetown Technical College Professor Renee Causey.
Causey’s study found a lack of state and federal funding in our area and disagreement on the best type of treatment for opioid addiction, especially when it comes to medically assisted treatment.
The solicitor’s office created a drug court which is an alternative to incarceration. Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said 430 people have successfully completed the program.
To participate, you can not be on medically assisted treatment which is the use of FDA medications to treat substance abuse.
The drug most often used with medically assisted treatment, or MAT, is suboxone which is an opioid.
“Once you’ve pleaded and you’re looking at 15 years. We give you other alternatives than trading heroin for a pill,” said Richardson.
Causey sites in her report that MAT drugs have a street value. Since drug court does not allow MAT, they don’t receive federal funds.
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said he’s not against it but says he doesn’t want to change what’s working.
“There were 5,000 warrants pre-drug court by these participants to slightly under 100 after.
Medically assisted treatment could stop you from getting all the way up to drug court, but I don’t want to mess and tinker with that because it’s working,” said Richardson.
Adam Blanton, a physician’s assistant at SC Primary Care Specialists, wants to change the stigma.
“You’re replacing one drug for another. You aren’t doing anything. Actually, you are, because you’re changing the illegal activity and addiction part while you’re treating the dependency,” said Blanton.
He said while Suboxone is an opioid, the more you take there is no euphoric effect.
Renee Causey said in a statement, in part, “The recovery process must be individualized based on the unique needs of each person. As a best practice, we should support all pathways to recovery.”
Causey’s study cites leaders at J. Reuben Long and the solicitor want to develop a separate housing unit for those with dependency issues. It would include education and treatment services. The solicitor said that got shut down by court administration, but hopes a lawmaker will pick it up.