Charleston seeks feedback on how to best spend opioid settlement money

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – The City of Charleston is a city in the Lowcountry that will receive a portion of more than $360 million in settlement funds intended to help address the opioid crisis in South Carolina.

The city received just over $8 million as part of an opioid settlement fund approved by the state House earlier this year, which will go toward curbing substance abuse and overdoses in the community.

“There is fentanyl everywhere in everything,” said Charleston Recovery Center Director Annie Blanton. “Young children who try marijuana say for the first time it could possibly contain fentanyl. They may die.

Charleston Wellness Coordinator Paul Wieters said the city will have to spend those dollars over the next 18 years, with the first three years being designated as a planning period.

The city said they are looking to make Narcan accessible. They are also looking at existing programs related to fire, police, and the homeless, but are seeking help from the community.

“I know the city has gone to other cities to look at the best practices that money is already being spent on to find out what is actually being done, what is the best practice to help,” Wieters said.

Blanton said cracking down on prescription and alternative medications is one way to reduce overdoses.

“A lot of people come here who come out of medical facilities with more medication than they’ll ever need,” Blanton said. “Prescribing a narcotic to a drug addict is the beginning of an end. They will eventually go on a drug of their choice, so maybe some education on that. Being able to mark accounts so they can’t buy them at their local pharmacy.”

He also said that expanding education will be the best use of the city’s dollars, as it will reduce a problem plaguing the area.

“All I have to do is go to a hospital or an emergency room and tell them, ‘I sprained my ankle. Can I get some painkillers? And generally speaking, if I’m flagged, I get them,” Blanton said. “I am addicted and alcoholic. I can’t take those things.

The planning period for the settlement fund begins next month.

“We’re going to get them out of it. Let’s get them some help,” Blanton said. “Let’s really support some rehab centers, let’s teach them what’s wrong with them and what they need to get out of that instead of giving them more medication.”

If you would like to provide feedback for the City on how best to use the funds, please email your suggestions to Paul Wieters at [email protected].

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