DHEC Health Departments Equipped with ‘OD Safety Kits’ to Help Residents Save Family, Friends from Opioid Overdoses
Data show drug overdoses increase during the holiday season
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Dec. 12, 2022
COLUMBIA, S.C. ― The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) announced today that health departments in all 46 counties are now equipped with Overdose (OD) Safety Kits to help save lives. The timing of these kits being available to the public, in limited number, coincides with the holiday season when the number of drug overdoses typically increases in South Carolina and nationally.
Each OD Safety Kit available at DHEC health departments contains two doses of the opioid-antidote medication naloxone, five fentanyl test strips, educational materials on how to use both, and guidance for how to identify an opioid overdose. The naloxone in the kits is a nasal spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, potentially saving a person’s life, and the fentanyl test strips are small strips of paper that can detect the presence of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid, in different types of drugs.
At this time, DHEC is able to provide two kits per person while supplies last.
“As another holiday season begins, it’s important we recognize that these are not happy, joyful times for everyone. This time of year can be stressful, isolating and saddening for many people,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “We encourage anyone with friends or loved ones who struggle during the holidays to stop by their DHEC health department to pick up a free OD Safety Kit to have on hand. And we remind those struggling mentally or emotionally that there is help available to you.
"It is also important to remember that overdoses can occur unintentionally," said Dr. Simmer. "Many other drugs of abuse can be laced with fentanyl unknown to the user, which can cause a fatal overdose even in a small quantity. Although we strongly discourage the use of any drug abuse, the fentanyl test strips included in the OD Safety Kit can help prevent unintentional overdoses and deaths. Together, we can prevent untimely deaths due to overdoses by removing stigma and being prepared to act, if needed, using these live-saving kits.””
In addition to the OD Safety Kits available now at DHEC health departments, the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (DAODAS) manages a statewide network of Naloxone Community Distributors where residents can receive free doses of naloxone, fentanyl test strips and educational materials.
“DHEC’s new OD Safety Kits are a welcome addition to our efforts to reduce overdose deaths in South Carolina,” said DAODAS Director Sara Goldsby. “Although the primary goal is for those with opioid and other substance use disorders to seek help from local treatment providers, it is still crucial to make naloxone and test strips available to help prevent overdoses in the meantime. These prevention tools should also be made accessible to individuals – such as recreational users and caregivers – who might unknowingly be exposed to fentanyl, which can be lethal in very small amounts.”
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH), another key partner in the state’s efforts to combat drug overdoses, offers a range of services to assist anyone struggling with mental or emotional health issues. Its SC HOPES line connects South Carolinians to available resources across the state, and its Mobile Crisis Program provides assessment to anyone experiencing a mental health crisis. These toll-free, statewide lines can be reached 24/7/365 at: (844) SC-HOPES (724-6737) and (833) 364-2274. A listing of crisis and non-crisis mental health resources is available online.
“Sometimes when people are in crisis, they simply need to know that someone cares about them, that they are not alone,” said SCDMH Acting State Director Robert Bank, MD. “This simple point could mean the difference between life and death, and SCDMH is here with you when you need us.”
To check the availability of OD Safety Kits at a DHEC health department, find contact information for calling ahead at scdhec.gov. To find free naloxone doses and fentanyl test strips available at other Community Distributors, visit justplainkilles.com. For services to treat addiction, visit daodas.sc.gov or embracerecoverysc.com.
Learn how to recognize the signs of an overdose and how administer naloxone nasal spray with an instructional video at scdhec.gov/cope.