COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Some Midlands mothers of drug abuse victims are taking to the State House to rally for a new law against drug dealers. They want stricter consequences for drug dealers, to fight the opioid epidemic in South Carolina.
According to the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), 616 people died from opioid overdoses in 2017. There have been efforts by lawmakers inside the State House to enact new policies to curb the crisis; there were 15 policies passed into law in the past two-year legislative session.
Included in some of the measures passed, is the law to gr ant limited immunity from prosecution to a drug user who calls for medical help for a co-user, and a seven day limit on pain pill prescriptions for patients.
Mothers who are planning an August rally at the State House say those 15 policies still aren't enough to save lives. Joan Singleton, Melissa Inabinet, and Kathy Ferrell are part of the group who want the dealer who sells the dose to be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison.
Melissa Inabinet is a Gaston mother and grandmother who wants a law to eventually go beyond that, to "clean up the streets" of dealers. She is organizing the rally.
"I think it should happen before that lethal dose comes out, because nobody should have to bury their baby like that," Inabinet said, and added, "we're losing our streets and our children to drug dealers."
Joan Singleton has a daughter who struggles with drug addiction. Because of that, Singleton cares for her 5-year-old grandson full time. She worries any phone call could be the devastating news no parent wants to hear.
"When my phone rings, any number that pops up, my heart skips a beat 'cause I'm scared that whoever is on the other end is going to tell me that my daughter is dead," Singleton told WIS-TV. She tearfully continued, "her son asks me all the time is his mom dead...and I've had him since he was [3 years old], full time."
Singleton will participate in the rally. She also wants more access to addiction treatment.
Then, there's Kathy Ferrell. Ferrell's daughter died from a drug overdose in 2016, and left behind a young daughter and son. "It's been devastating. It's been something that I never want any mother to have to go through," Ferrell said. "We are fed up with the drug problem in our community and we want action."
"I need these drug dealers to know that we as parents aren't going to sit back anymore twiddling our thumbs," Singleton said.
Senate Bill S.83, sponsored by Sen. Greg Hembree (R-Horry) is the bill to enact a stricter sentence on drug dealers that never became law. Hembree says he will file it again because it was ultimately "watered down" in committee meetings in the end, changed into something he felt did no good.
In the House, Rep. Russell Fry (R- Horry) says he's worked on similar legislation and will also have another go at it; Fry says next year will be time for the opioid study committee to look into what type of law enforcement changes can be made to stop the dangerous opioid epidemic.