SC universities, state agencies combine to fight addiction

South Carolina’s three research universities are joining with the state agencies to try to find...
South Carolina’s three research universities are joining with the state agencies to try to find the best ways to help the 1 in 10 state residents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.(Live 5/File)
Published: Dec. 29, 2022 at 5:46 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina’s three research universities are joining with the state agencies that protect public health and fight addictions to try to find the best ways to help the 1 in 10 state residents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The agreement comes as governments across the state are getting ready to get the first chunk of $360 million over 18 years from an opioid settlement with a pharmaceutical company and three major opioid distributors.

A memorandum of understanding was signed on Nov. 22 by leaders of the state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and the Department of Health and Environmental Control as well as the Medical University of South Carolina; the University of South Carolina; and Clemson University.

“This partnership we think is pretty historic. I don’t think the state has ever seen the centralization of expertise among these institutions and state agencies specifically for addiction,” Sara Goldsby.

The South Carolina Center of Excellence in Addiction will collect data to analyze what approaches to addiction work best and what doesn’t and then make sure the money directed toward the problem is spent wisely.

“The opioid addiction problem in South Carolina is, unfortunately, bigger than any one agency or institution’s scope, and addressing it responsibly and robustly demands the kind of multi-partner collaboration and commitment” this agreement represents, said Dr. Ed Simmer, DHEC’s director.

An estimated 54,000 South Carolinians have an opioid abuse problem, for which roughly a quarter are seeking treatment, according to a research paper in the International Journal of Drug Policy, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

But when including all addictions, an estimated 451,000 residents suffer from substance-related problems, according to the state’s addiction agency. That’s nearly one in every 10 South Carolinians.

The addiction agency is seeking $1 million in next year’s budget to get the center started and Gov. Henry McMaster’s office plans to ask the General Assembly to set aside $3 million more to help out.

The center won’t be housed in any one agency or university, but instead will be shared across the institutions and share a website, Goldsby said.