First Step program helps overdose victims and families through addiction

VIDEO: First Step program helps overdose victims and families through addiction

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - For the past three years, the Mount Pleasant Police Department has seen a steady increase in overdose calls and deaths, and officials believe a new program is helping them address their part in the opioid epidemic.

Mishka Scarafile credits a big part of his nine months of sobriety to Mount Pleasant Police Department’s First Step program.

“Being given another chance has helped me a lot,” Scarafile said. “Sgt. Tony Winstead came and visited me not as a police officer but as a friend. He offered me the chance to get help.”

The program has given Scarafile the attention and resources he never would have found in a jail cell or hospital bed.

“I know on my birthday he took me out to lunch,” Scarafile said. “It meant a lot to me because at the time I was struggling. I didn’t have too many close friends. To know that someone truly cared meant a lot.”

The First Step program helps connect overdose victims and their families with treatment centers and advocacy groups.

“They are victims,” Sgt. Tony Winstead said. “Even though the numbers are low compared to some other places, it still, one death is one too many when we can at least try and stop some of the overdosing and dying from the opioids.”

It’s a community effort to combat the ongoing impacts of the opioid epidemic.

As of Aug. 1, officers in Mount Pleasant have responded to 30 overdose calls and four overdose deaths, putting 2019 on pace with years past.

Year Overdoses Deaths
2016 20 2
2017 37 8
2018 58 8
2019 (as of Aug. 1) 30 4

Scarafile hopes his story can help others seek support.

“I know a lot of people who struggle with addiction and a lot of them have been struggling for a long time,” Scarafile said. “I would like for just one person to see this and know there are people out there who care and want you to do well.”

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.