Charleston Police fight opioid overdoses with help from federal program

The City of Charleston was awarded $900,000 in 2021 to fund this project for three years.
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 3:39 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 2, 2023 at 7:33 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Police have developed a Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Use Program with help from the federal government to fight a rise in overdoses in the area.

The City of Charleston was awarded $900,000 in 2021 to fund this project for three years. It’s designed to fight the ongoing overdoses related to opioids and other drugs through education, handing out Narcan and working with other local agencies.

Project Coordinator Shelby Joffrion oversees trends and talks with other law enforcement agencies in Charleston County. She has two police officers who help her follow up on overdose cases within the city.

Police have responded to around 150 suspected overdoses this year alone. A total of 34 of those overdoses were fatal, and all of them were due to fentanyl, Joffrion said.

Police said those 34 deaths are around five times higher than the city’s murder rate.

Joffrion said they saw a jump in opioid use due to the pandemic, which is still being felt.

“There haven’t been any confirmed instances of fentanyl being mixed with marijuana,” Joffrion said. “However, it is mixed with everything else. I will say this as well, Xzylazine is not an opioid, so it does not respond to Narcan. Narcan will not be effective for those that are using Xzylazine. That’s a tranquilizer. It’s a depressant.”

Though the program is supposed to run for three years, police said they plan to extend it for another two years.