The Orangeburg Department of Public Safety is preparing its officers for the growing opioid problem, Chief Mike Adams said Tuesday.
“Drug overdose is currently the leading cause of accidental death in the United States with 62,497 lethal drug overdoses in 2016 for an average of one every eight and a half minutes,” Adams said.
“It took a while to get here to Orangeburg, but it’s here,” he said.
Adams spoke to Orangeburg City Council about the problem, the S.C. Overdoses Prevention Act and how the department is fighting back against opioids.
In 2016, there were 5.2 million opioid prescriptions in South Carolina while the state’s population was just 4,961,119, he said.
“That gives you kind of an idea of the scope of the problem,” Adams said.
He noted that there were 366 murders in South Carolina. In contrast, 616 deaths occurred due to opioids.
“We’re having double the amount of opioid deaths,” Adams said.
There were four reported opioid deaths in Orangeburg County in 2016.
Most of the state’s opioid problem is in the Piedmont region, as well as around Myrtle Beach, Georgetown and Charleston.
To combat the drug problem, Adams said the department will be receiving Narcan, which counteracts opioids and prevents respiratory arrest.
“It’s just a little container and you stick it into the nostril, and you squeeze,” Adams said. “It’s absorbed by the mucus membrane.”
Opioids such as fentanyl are so potent that just contact with the skin can cause issues for officers during car searches or taking something from a suspect’s pockets.
As a result, they wear higher-grade gloves and sometimes double glove themselves.
Adams said the Narcan adds another layer of protection.
ODPS recently sent two officers to a course on how to administer Narcan. The officers are now certified Narcan instructors who will instruct the other members of the agency.
“We look to get all of our officers trained,” Adams said.
ODPS also plans to train officers from local universities and have certified Narcan users on the campuses as a backup.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will come to Orangeburg with 40 units of Narcan later this month. Each unit has two doses of Narcan.
Adams said the units will be distributed heavily throughout the uniformed patrol division.
The Narcan units are being provided by Law Enforcement Officer Narcan.
LEON’s goal is to provide comprehensive training to law enforcement agencies across South Carolina that focuses on the identification, treatment and reporting of drug overdoses attributed to opiates/opioids, such as heroin and narcotic pharmaceutical drugs.
In other business:
• Council heard a presentation from ODPS Deputy Director Ed Conner about the Orangeburg Safe Communities Initiatives.
Orangeburg Safe Communities is a unified, proactive police and community collaboration that engages, educates and empowers repeat serious offenders on probation to obtain assistance, change behavior, make healthy life choices or suffer consequences of unified police/prosecutorial focus and priority.
• Council proclaimed “perseverance” as the character trait for the month of March.