COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A group of lawmakers begins its task of curbing the growing opioid epidemic sweeping across South Carolina.
House members on the Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee were selected by Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington). Rep. Lucas charged them with their responsibilities at their first meeting on Tuesday morning.
"Each of you has been given an opportunity to make a difference; To attempt to change the culture of opioid abuse in South Carolina; To turn sadness into hope; and to better protect our citizens and families from this growing epidemic so that the number of those who struggle with opioid abuse is lower tomorrow than it was yesterday," Lucas said.
So far this session, there have been bills passed by the House that aim to lessen the crisis.
"Throughout this session, the South Carolina House has passed several measures to address this issue. In our budget, we directed state agencies and organizations to develop a pilot project to study and acquire the necessary data to combat opioid abuse in an area of critical need. The House has also passed bills to expand the prescription drug take-back program, gr ant immunity for persons who seek medical assistance for an overdose, and increase training in higher education institutions for professions that may write controlled substance prescriptions," Lucas said.
One member of the committee is Rep. Eric Bedingfield (R-Greenville), whose son died of heroin overdose.
"Thank you, Representative Bedingfield, for that very kind introduction. Eric, first of all, I want you to know how proud I am of you. Over the past few years, you have experienced the most unimaginable frustration and grief any father should have to endure. Your commitment to this issue is remarkable. I truly believe your son's story will help change lives for the better and prevent other South Carolina families, friends and loved ones from sharing the pain you have felt with opioid addiction," Lucas said.
"I spent five or six years going through addiction and counseling services with my own son," Bedingfield said. "You know, unfortunately, maybe it took his passing to push me over the edge and start trying to drive this train a little faster, a little harder -- to treat patients, heal families and give folks opportunity and decrease the number of deaths we see from the epidemic."
The group began hearing studies from agencies like DHEC on opioid addiction on Tuesday morning. Their goal is to pass legislation to help curb the epidemic and help addicts recover.
Rep. Bedingfield tells the committee to expect testimony from recovering addicts.