COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Lawmakers are organizing to fight the state's growing heroin epidemic.
A special opioid committee made up of state representatives is now tasked to help curb the death count from drug overdoses, after several bills to crackdown on use still haven't become law.
One bill, sponsored by State Representative Eric Bedingfield (R- Greenville), has passed the House. It was voted through on Thursday. The bill would gr ant immunity for drug users who call for help for their co-user overdosing.
Bedingfield chairs the new committee, as well. His son died from a heroin overdose just about one year ago.
There are several other bills filed that still have not made it to debate on the House floor, yet. Other bills call for things like drug prescription monitoring, and to change the offense of illegal drug selling to become involuntary manslaughter if it kills the user.
The new committee will streamline the bills and craft one plan, sort of an overdose prevention act.
"My hope would be to save a life right now," Rep. Chip Huggins (R- Lexington) says.
Huggins sits on the committee; Huggins first sponsored legislation that passed a couple of years ago, to equip first responders with the antidote to overdoses. He now hopes to focus on helping those with addiction, too.
"So, the cure for the addiction in trying to get treatment facilities and things like that will qualify and truthfully help folks to get out of this addiction is where we really want to go in the end result," Huggins says.
Kathy Ferrell is one Midlands parent who has been following the progress of the bills. Her daughter died from an overdose about one year ago.
"Had my daughter's co-users called for help, she would likely be alive," Ferrell says.
She supports the bill for immunity but is disappointed more have not gone further. Huggins says the new committee should begin meeting this summer.