Opioid settlement funds are headed to Georgetown County to expand an innovative peer recovery program at Tidelands Health, create assistance for patients starting their recovery and fund additional efforts to help battle the opioid crisis.
Georgetown County has received a $449,000 grant from the South Carolina Opioid Recovery Fund Board, which is administering the settlement funds collected through opioid cases against pharmacies, distributors and others whose actions have contributed to the country’s opioid crisis. More than $360 million will be coming to South Carolina over the next 18 years and will be administered to entities statewide for opioid abatement strategies.
“Opioid addiction is truly an epidemic in this country and right here in Georgetown County,” said Georgetown County Administrator Angela Christian. “This impacts people in every segment of our community – young and old, rich and poor. It’s destroying families. This is truly a community-wide problem, and we are going to have to address it as a community. That is why I am so glad to be partnering with Tidelands Health and others to put these funds to work. This effort is community collaboration in every sense.”
More than half the grant money received by the county, about $292,500, will be used to expand an innovative and successful peer recovery program at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet. After being screened through a series of questions, patients determined to potentially have a substance use disorder are connected with certified peer recovery coaches on site, who often draw on their own long-term recovery to successfully encourage patients to accept treatment and seek recovery.
The grant will expand the program by hiring five additional certified peer recovery coaches, which will allow the service to be offered around the clock in both hospital emergency departments. In addition, screening of patients will expand to include those 13 and up. The program expansion will be administered through a partnership between the Georgetown County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, Tidelands Health and Shoreline Behavioral 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. “Many lives have been turned around because of the connection patients made with relatable peer recovery coaches available through this unique program in our hospitals. We are grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of even more patients through our partnership with Georgetown County and Shoreline Behavioral Health thanks to these settlement funds.”
The grant will also help break down barriers many face as they begin recovery. About $81,600 will be used to create a scholarship program to assist patients with costs for housing or transportation to treatment. Peer recovery coaches in the hospitals will help eligible patients apply for scholarship funds.
“Housing and transportation are two big barriers for people beginning a recovery journey,” said Cynthia Dominick, director of behavioral health operations at Tidelands Health. “The first few weeks can be a stumbling block for patients who don’t have the means to cover those costs. Creating a program to help will remove that barrier so patients can focus on recovery.”
County grant funds also are earmarked for development of an opioid response committee, a training program for first responders, an annual opioid summit and a media campaign focused on prevention.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the ongoing opioid crisis,” said Christian. “We are putting the settlement funds to use in creative ways to combat this crisis from multiple directions. Thanks to our county Drug and Alcohol Commission and committed partners like Tidelands Health and Shoreline Behavioral Health, we are determined to make a difference.”