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The news is not good on the opioid crisis in South Carolina.

76 billion opioid pills

From 2017 to 2018, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by 9% (748 to 816), according to data collected by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Family Health Centers receiving behavioral services funds

“This news shows that the opioid epidemic continues to devastate South Carolinians and their families, but it will not discourage us in our fight to eradicate it from our communities,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “From the Opioid Emergency Response Team to the men and women who work and volunteer in addiction services every day, Team South Carolina will continue to work to provide evidence-based treatment to those who are suffering and to educate younger generations on the devastating effects of opioid addiction.”

In The T&D Region, a key player in health care is getting new assistance in providing such care.

Orangeburg-based Family Health Centers Inc. is one of the state's largest community health centers. During its 50 years of serving the community, FHC has provided crucial primary care and many other services to thousands upon thousands of people.

As a federally qualified health center that is nonprofit, community-owned and federally funded, FHC today has a mission to enhance and expand community-responsive quality health care for the medically underserved and uninsured in Orangeburg, Bamberg, Calhoun and Dorchester counties. It fulfills that need with its main Orangeburg site and satellite locations in Denmark, Holly Hill, Neeses, St. George, St. Matthews and Vance.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, awarded nearly $7 million to South Carolina to combat the opioid crisis. The investments will enable HRSA-funded community health centers such as FHC, rural organizations and academic institutions to establish and expand access to integrated substance use disorder and mental health services.

Family Health Centers will receive $167,000 of the funding.

The awards support HHS' Five-Point Opioid Strategy introduced under President Donald Trump in 2017. The number of patients receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction at HRSA-funded health centers has increased 142% from 2016 to 2018, according to HHS.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “Health centers and behavioral health providers are on the front lines of the fight against the opioid crisis and substance abuse, especially in rural communities. With our evidence-based strategy, HHS is working to support local communities in fighting back against substance abuse, and our united efforts are yielding results."

During Family Health Centers' recent legislative breakfast, U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn challenged providers to find new ways to help communities, and he challenged the community to support FHC.

“Find ways that you can help communities beyond what's been the traditional thing to do. If we don't, we are going to pass on to the next generation a little less education, a little less health care, a little less wealth and a little less sense of community,” he said.

Using funding to find ways to prevent and treat opioid addiction is of primary importance in 2019 and beyond. The numbers from South Carolina and around the country tell us that Azar's words are as much a challenge as an assessment of reality: "Together, we can end our country’s opioid crisis and lay a foundation for a healthier country where every American can access the mental health care they need.”

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