South Carolina governor declares opioid crisis public health emergency

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster officially declared South Carolina's opioid overdose epidemic a statewide public health emergency on Monday.

The emergency declaration allows law enforcement, state officials and private partners to leverage the state's emergency management infrastructure to address rising rates of opioid-related deaths and addiction in South Carolina. The governor also issued two executive orders on Monday. One establishes an opioid emergency response team, which will include state and federal law enforcement offices, healthcare providers and regulatory agencies. The team will meet monthly to develop further strategic plans to address the crisis.

"The opioid crisis is one that has invaded so many aspects of the lives of South Carolinians and of families across the country," said Gov. McMaster. "We are confident that if there is a group capable of combating this problem, providing treatment for those affected, and bringing about tangible results that will change lives, it’s this group of dedicated, talented individuals that we have been able to put together."

The second executive order directs the state Department of Health and Human Services to limit Medicaid opioid prescriptions to five days for acute and post-operative pain. The state's health plan has also agreed to enact similar limitations. The restrictions do not apply to chronic pain patients.

South Carolina saw 616 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016, double the number of deaths attributable to homicides or drunk driving, according to a report from The Post and Courier.

More articles on opioids: 
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Former DEA officials speak out against resolution of 2014 McKesson opioid case: 5 things to know

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