Mt. Pleasant’s First Step Program credited with reducing overdose deaths, saving lives

VIDEO: Mt. Pleasant police, community partners reflect on one year of programs to combat overdose

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - One year since its inception, the First Step Program in Mount Pleasant is saving lives.

It’s the first in the state to put Narcan in the hands of the community and approach the opioid epidemic with a unique and multi-faceted community response.

Leaders believe their work is reducing the number of overdose deaths.

“Sometimes the biggest heartbreaks in life bring amazing opportunities for change,” said Nanci Steadman Shipman.

She’s the founder of WakeUp Carolina, and her passion for helping people comes from her own personal experience.

She lost her son Creighton to an overdose in 2016. His struggle with opioids was sparked by a prescription he was given after a needed surgery.

“I just miss him," Shipman said. "If it wasn’t for Creighton’s life, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

She’s working with the Mount Pleasant Police Department and the Charleston Center to destigmatize substance use disorders and provide access to recovery resources.

“I’m very happy to know that we have amazing community partners trying to give opportunities and resources to one person at a time. One person counts," Shipman said.

Leaders say dozens of people have attended their events to learn how to use Narcan, a medication that can reverse an overdose within seconds.

“The biggest challenge, to be honest, of the First Step program is putting something together that hasn’t existed before," Shipman said.

“When we think about opioid addiction and overdoses, we often find the dialogue is that they chose to do this themselves, they are not worthy of receiving overdose medication," said Caitlin Kratz, a therapist with The Charleston Center. "I think it will still remain a barrier, and we need to continue to remain champions in the community but that is something we’ve had to overcome.”

For Nanci, the First Step Program’s success is a testament to the many, personal experiences that have led to leaders wanting to find a solution that works.

“We need the community to continue to support all paths to recovery. This is a family disease," Shipman said.

The First Step program has expanded to North Charleston Police Department. Officials will hold their first Narcan training event Saturday.

It will be held at Felix Davis Community Center from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Another opportunity to receive free Narcan and training will be held at Mount Pleasant Town Hall on Nov. 23 at 9:30 a.m.

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