State officials declare county drug ‘red zone’

COUNTY — Pickens County has caught the attention of South Carolina’s Inspector General in relation to its number of deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses and the number of prescriptions written for opiates.

In a recent report, South Carolina Inspector Patrick J. Maley noted that Pickens County has an unusually high number of deaths associated with prescription drug overdoses.

In 2011, South Carolina had a total of 225 deaths as a result of prescription drug overdoses, and Pickens County accounted for 18 percent of that total, making the county a “red zone.” 

“This is a real concern and a real problem for our community,” said Dr. Jim Mahanes, a surgeon at Cannon Hospital, former Pickens County coroner and founder of the Prescription Narcotics Task Force, which is now a coalition known as the Pickens County Drug Abuse Alliance (PCDAA). “The numbers are alarming, and this recent report from the Inspector General indicates that our community has a prescription drug abuse crisis.”

Local law enforcement and medical personnel had input into the Inspector General’s report and serve on the task force that is aimed at identifying resources needed in the community to combat the problem.

“Despite the fact that resources in a small community are limited, our task force has already put big efforts into making a significant reduction in the number of prescribed narcotics,” said Mahanes.

In response to the recent report, the PCDAA, the Step it Up Coalition of Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County and the School District of Pickens County are partnering to present a community-wide educational rally on April 29 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Pickens High School auditorium.

A panel of leaders, including Maley, will be on hand to discuss the issue and answer questions. Parents are encouraged to attend to find out the signs to look for with prescription drug use among teens. Community members are invited to find out what they can do in their community to report misuse of prescription drugs.

“We have to pull together as a community and take a stand in order to see results with a problem of this magnitude,” said Mahanes. “Prescription drug abuse and misuse is not just law enforcement’s responsibility.  It has a domino effect throughout our county, and I encourage each of you to be a part of this event.”