Community and special panel gather to address opioid epidemic - FOX Carolina 21

Community and special panel gather to address opioid epidemic

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Dozens packed into the Greenville County Chambers to share stories and experiences associated with the opioid epidemic.

The group came together on Thursday to discuss the problem with a panel made up of 16 people dedicating their time to helping tackling opioid abuse in the streets.

"It's literally shut down communities. It's literally closed down businesses and it has absolutely decimated entire cities," said Sheriff Will Lewis with the Greenville Co. Sheriff's Office.

At the rate things are going, Sheriff Lewis said the people packed into the room need to do what they can to make sure Greenville isn't next to fall victim to the epidemic.

"Greenville County has seen an influx of nearly 363% in heroin since 2013. That's unheard of," said Lewis. "We've never seen a drug take over like that."

He said Narcan, a substance used to reverse the effects of drug overdose has been used 31 times in Greenville County this year. 

At first, the number 31 doesn't sound too alarming, but Lewis said it's not a small matter.

"Not until you realize that in the state of South Carolina, there have been 73 doses used in the entire state," Lewis explained. "Greenville has had 31." 

The Phoenix center, FAVOR, Greenville Family Partnerships,and law enforcement were all present to get the important conversation going.

Representative Eric Bedingfield said they heard these people loud and clear and wants everyone to know how serious they are taking this conversation. 

"There were over 41 million opioid pills prescribed in Greenville County alone in the year 2015. Think about that! That's nearly 10 pills per person," Bedingfield said.

He understands these numbers aren't just numbers.

"I lost my son nearly two years ago, because of opioid abuse and addiction," Bedingfield said. 

"We need lawmakers to understand that this is a disease and that we can't just put addicts or users in jail," explained Bedingfield. "We need to actually help them so they can live happy and productive lives." 

Lisa Mincey with FAVOR in Greenville said she's making it her mission to help those who don't know where to turn, even if it impacts just one of those numbers.

"We lost our son Andrew, to fentanyl overdose," Mincey said.

Her son Andrew had just turned 21 years old.

"We're losing more people to addiction than car accidents," Mincey said. 

"We need to make sure our young people are growing up in a place where the pill bottle in the cabinet needs to be viewed almost like the green Mr. Yucky sign in your sink," Bedingfield said. 

The conversation will continue as this panel will travel to Charleston next.

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