SC lawmakers file 10 bills to curb Opioid & heroin problem

Courtesy Eric Bedingfield
Josh Bedingfield, left, died last year from an opioid overdose. His father, Rep. Eric Bedingfield, on the right, is co-sponsoring bills to fight opioid abuse.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) — Four Republican state representatives filed 10 bills in the South Carolina House Wednesday aimed at curbing the state’s problem with heroin and prescription painkillers known as opioids.

“This is actually the first piece,” said Rep. Phyllis Henderson, R-Greenville. “We’re going to follow-up with a set of bills that actually addresses kind of the law enforcement/ legal side of the equation, if you will. These bills are mostly geared toward the prescription side of things.”

The other sponsors are Rep. Eric Bedingfield of Greenville, Rep. Russell Fry of Myrtle Beach, and Rep. Chip Huggins of Chapin.

It’s a personal mission for Rep. Bedingfield. His 26-year-old son Josh died of an overdose last year after struggling for years with addiction. “It started off with Josh attending pill parties in high school, various different types of pills, I’m sure, including probably barbiturates, opioids, things of that nature,” he says.

When he couldn’t get pills easily anymore he started buying street-level heroin, Rep. Bedingfield says. Josh went through rehab and stayed clean for a couple of years, but then had one bad day, gave in to the craving and bought what he thought was heroin and took it, his father says. But it wasn’t heroin; it was fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It killed him.

One of the 10 bills they filed is a Good Samaritan law that would give limited immunity from prosecution for other drug users who call for help when someone overdoses. South Carolina is the only state that doesn’t have such a law. Rep. Bedingfield says, “In the panic that’s created in that moment from the other users, they don’t know if they just all bought bad drugs or can’t wake the guy up. Everybody gets scared and they run away, and the individual’s left to make it or die, in a lot of cases.”

He says Josh knew two people who died in those circumstances, where the other people with them never called for help for fear they’d be arrested. Bedingfield thinks this law would save lives. “To free their mind to think, ‘I’m calling 911. I’m going to get this person help, and I’m not going to have to worry when the cops get here.'”

Other bills they filed:
–Mandatory use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. It requires that, before prescribing, a doctor must first check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a database that tracks the prescribing of controlled substances.
–Mandatory higher education requirements for health care workers. Colleges that offer degrees in health care professions that have schedule II, III, or IV prescriptive authority must require coursework on the prescription and monitoring of those controlled substances.
–Take-back programs. Allow pharmacies and others to register as collectors to receive controlled substances as part of take-back events, as a way for people to safely dispose of unused painkillers.
–Prescription report cards. Requires DHEC to provide prescription report cards to doctors who use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. The report cards provide data on the practitioner’s prescribing practices.
–Mandatory reporting of fetal exposure to alcohol or controlled substances. Requires medical professionals to report to DSS any child diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or who is affected by non-prescription controlled substances.
–High school health curriculum. Requires high school students to get instruction on prescription drug abuse as part of their health education.
–Parental consent when prescribing to minors. Requires parental consent before prescribing opioids to minors.
–Counterfeit-resistant prescription blank. Requires DHEC to develop a counterfeit-resistant prescription blank that doctors would have to use for prescribing controlled substances.

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