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New law enforcement training focuses on helping opioid addicts recover

Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 7:50 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Several Lowcountry law enforcement agencies are building “quick response teams” to better respond to the opioid crisis.

But special training is designed to show police and deputies not only how to respond to a suspected opioid overdose but also how to help people in the community in their recovery.

Members of the Charleston and Mount Pleasant Police Departments and the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office are partnering with other organizations to fight the opioid epidemic in the Lowcountry. Faces and Voices of Recovery Lowcountry and WakeUp Carolina will lead training Friday and Monday.

The South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services says 2020 was one of the worst years for opioid use disorder in the state. Overdoses reportedly increased by about 50% last year.

The Lowcountry agencies’ quick response teams will be similar to those created in larger cities that have experienced the epidemic to a greater degree.

FAVOR Lowcountry Executive Director Isaac Waters said with the quick response teams, within 24 to 72 hours after an overdose is reported in Charleston County, a law enforcement officer will respond to the overdose patient and provide them access to treatment opetions in the area.

Waters says the goal is for each officer to be staffed with a peer member from the community. These are people who are also in substance use recovery who can relate to them, tell them where they can go to get help, put them in contact with professionals, or invite them to meetings.

“So, it isn’t just about like here’s your information pamphlet, here’s the resources available,” Waters said. “It really is like, ‘I have a place for you to go, can I take you? Are you willing to go? Do you want to talk to someone about it?’ The law enforcement agents right now are making these soft hand-offs to individuals and to professionals that can really help them.”

Waters says another goal of the program is to educate the entire community about substance abuse and reduce stereotypes about people in recovery.

FAVOR Lowcountry also offers recovery ally training free to other companies in the area.

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