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Opioid settlement money funds rehab program in Georgetown County

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2013 file photo, Schedule 2 narcotics: Morphine Sulfate, OxyContin and Opana are displayed.
Rich Pedroncelli
FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2013 file photo, Schedule 2 narcotics: Morphine Sulfate, OxyContin and Opana are displayed.

Two hospitals in Georgetown County are using money paid by companies found liable to fight addiction.

Georgetown, S.C.- Settlement money from pharmacies and distributors found liable in the nation’s opioid crisis will be used to fight addiction at two hospitals in Georgetown County.

“It’s destroying families,” said Georgetown County Administrator Angela Christian. “This is truly a community-wide problem, and we’re going to have to address it as a community.”

Christian says the county has received a $449,000 grant from the South Carolina Opioid Recovery Fund program, which is handling settlement distribution. More than $360 million is coming to the state over the next 18 years.

Part of Georgetown County’s share is being used to expand a peer recovery program at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet. The peer program connects patients with coaches who’ve undergone long-term recovery and can share their experiences.

The settlement money will help the program hire more coaches, include patients 13 years and older, and offer treatment at both hospital emergency rooms around the clock. The county is partnering with the Georgetown County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, Shoreline Behavioral Health, and Tidelands Health.

“Because many patients with substance use disorders arrive at our hospitals, this is a crucial point to identify their struggle and help them seek recovery,” said Monica Grey, vice president of care continuum and digital health at Tidelands Health.

The money will also be used to try to break down the barriers many face as they begin recovery like the cost of treatment as well as housing and transportation.

“The first few weeks can be a stumbling block for patients who don’t have the means to cover those costs,” said Cynthia Dominick, director of behavioral health operations at Tidelands Health.

“Creating a program to help will remove that barrier so patients can focus on recovery,” said Dominick.

The county also plans to develop an opioid response committee, train more first responders and create a media campaign focused on prevention.

Victoria Hansen is our Lowcountry connection covering the Charleston community, a city she knows well. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms and has worked as a broadcast journalist for more than 20 years. Her first reporting job brought her to Charleston where she covered local and national stories like the Susan Smith murder trial and the arrival of the Citadel’s first female cadet.