Gov. McMaster declares public health emergency for opioid epidemic

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) — Governor Henry McMaster issued two executive orders Monday, declaring public health emergency for the ongoing opioid epidemic and calling for a statewide response.

The emergency declaration allows for state officials, private partners, and law enforcement to utilize emergency management infrastructure to combat deaths, addiction, and abuse by opioid.

Gov. McMaster said opioid overdoses caused 616 deaths in the state last year, nearly as many as the state’s homicide and drunken driving deaths combined.

“The opioid crisis is one that has invaded so many aspects of the lives of South Carolinians and of families across the country,” said Gov. Henry McMaster in a press release. “We are confident that if there is a group capable of combating this problem, providing treatment for those affected, and bringing about tangible results that will change lives, it’s this group of dedicated, talented individuals that we have been able to put together.”

The first executive order established an “Opioid Emergency Response Team,” led by State Law Enforcement Division and Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and South Carolina Emergency Management Division officials.

Gov. McMaster also issued an executive order for a five-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions for acute and post-surgical usage for state Medicaid recipients.

The state Public Employee Benefit Authority will enact similar limits in the State Health Plan and legislation to make the five-day limitation state law for all initial opioid prescriptions is in the works.

The Response Team will hold monthly meetings for the next six months, starting Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 2:30 p.m.

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