Author Archives: DHEC Public Health

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

April 29, 2017 – 10AM to 2PM

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse and medications.

A number of agencies, pharmacies, organizations and others across South Carolina are joining the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to give the public its 13th opportunity in 7 years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.

Find a location near you by visiting the DEA Diversion Website and bring your pills for disposal.  (The DEA cannot accept liquids or needles or sharps, only pills or patches.)  The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last October, Americans turned in 366 tons (over 730,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at almost 5,200 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,000 of its state and local law enforcement partners.  Overall, in its 12 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 7.1 million pounds—more than 3,500 tons—of pills.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.  Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.  Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about the April 29 Take Back Day event, go to the DEA Diversion website.

CLIA Program highlighted during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week

This week is Medical Laboratory Professionals Week and we at DHEC want to highlight our Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) Program. 

CLIA was created in 1988 to establish quality standards for all laboratory testing. It is through CLIA that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is responsible for overseeing all the laboratory testing performed on humans in the U.S., except for clinical trials and research.

Some responsibilities of our CLIA team include surveying, certifying and recertifying laboratories for participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs based on federal and safety standards. Our CLIA survey team ensures that laboratory facilities performing tests on human specimens obtain proper CLIA certification and comply with CLIA regulations. The team also makes recommendations to CMS regarding survey findings and investigates complaint allegations of CLIA violations.

MedLabProfessionals Photo

CLIA team members (left to right): Mary Jo Roue, Lakeisha Wright, Ashley Gibbs, Kiawania Reed and Amelyn Olson.

“DHEC’s role with CLIA entitles quality standards for laboratories to ensure the accuracy, reliability, and timeliness of the patient’s results,” said Kiawania Reed, Bureau of Certification. “I make a difference by promoting teamwork, serving the community, and assuring achievable standards of quality and professionalism in our pursuit of healthy people living in healthy communities.”

Our CLIA Program must meet CMS performance expectations annually. CMS conducts a review every year to assess  DHEC’s ability to meet specific performance standards and to evaluate our performance of CLIA surveys and certification activities. Our CLIA team has met 100 percent of all performance standards for the past two consecutive federal fiscal years.

Many thanks to the members of our CLIA team for their hard work!

The value of immunizations for infants can’t be overstated

Immunizations save lives. There is no denying it: Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Just consider some of the milestones shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.
  • In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Many physicians today have never seen a case of the measles.
  • Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

The importance of immunizations

Immunizations play a valuable role in protecting the health of not only our children, but families and communities. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

The success of vaccines in preventing disease can’t be overstated. Each year we pause to observe National Infant Immunization Week, which this year runs from April 22-29.  It is a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.  It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring all children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the United States. It’s easy for measles to spread when it reaches communities in the United States — or anywhere else — where groups of people are unvaccinated.

The best way to protect against childhood diseases

Remember, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from serious diseases, like whooping cough and measles.  Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines are recommended for your child, and make sure you keep all immunization and well-child appointments.  For more information about how to protect your child with immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/protecting-children/index.html.

Make getting vaccinations less stressful

Even though you know you are keeping her safe from diseases, it’s hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. But you can take some steps to make the process less stressful.

The CDC suggests trying the following tips before, during and after shots:

For babies and younger children

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is OK.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

For older children and adolescents

  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories. Be sure to pack their favorite book!
  • Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”

Champions of the Environment Merit Winner: Montessori School of Anderson Compost Initiative

by
Charles Jordan
Montessori School of Anderson

This is the fifth of a series of blog posts recognizing winners of the 2016 Champions of the Environment awards.

At the Montessori School of Anderson, environmental education is an important aspect of our curriculum. Montessori philosophy encourages children to be self-directed and follow their interests. If we can provide a school environment with opportunities for children to discover the outdoors, we are planting seeds for a healthy environment. The inspiration for MSA’s Champions of the Environment project was food. We realized that after lunches and snacks, we had scrap food that was going to the landfill. This was a missed opportunity for replenishing nutrients in our garden’s soil! Through our composting project, our students are learning how red wiggler worms and bacteria can break down scrap and spoiled food into something useful and beneficial to the soil. Students learned that the worm castings not only return nutrients to the soil but they can help break up clumps of soil to allow air and water to pass through. They were surprised by some of the statistics that shows how much money families can save by composting. The students were given a lesson about the efficiency of red wigglers and how to assemble a worm bin. The class has created two vermiculture bins to compare and contrast the vermicomposting and hot composting methods.

The best part of our project is the campus-wide involvement across grades from K3 to 12th. The most challenging part of this project has been educating teachers and students about the importance of composting and what can be added to a compost pile. We think that this project will have lasting impacts beyond this school year. One of our goals is to grow crops, such as alfalfa and buckwheat that can be added to our compost in addition to food scraps, to create a continuous supply of compost for our gardens. Each level offers a daily morning snack and the students are responsible for preparing their own snack. Our aim is to create an environment where our students can grow, harvest, clean and prepare the food that they have grown. This will help them have a greater understanding of where their food comes from and how easy and rewarding it is to grow your own fruits and vegetables. If you want to start your own environmental education project, we suggest start planning and building community involvement early for your project to continue being successful after its launch.

DHEC participates in national conference aimed at keeping plastics out marine waters and surrounding areas

On March 30, DHEC’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) participated in a national conference focused on the reduction and prevention of plastics in the ocean, coastal waters and surrounding areas, such as sand on the beach. Breaking Down Plastics brought together over 500 environmental experts, non-governmental organizations, public agencies, private companies and concerned citizens to discuss the impact that plastic pollution has on the ocean environment, public health and coastal communities.

OCRM’s Coastal Services Division Director, Dan Burger, moderated the panel Government Vanguards of the Aquatic Debris Movement. Dan highlighted OCRM’s efforts, including abandoned and poorly kept vessel removal, Adopt-A-Beach and its recent cigarette litter reduction pilot study on Folly Beach. Additionally, Dan talked about how DHEC is using its MyCoast mobile app to collect data that can be used to help target reduction and prevention efforts.

Panelists from the U.S. Army, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed the innovative roles government plays in plastic polymer research, plastic pollution source reduction and local partnership efforts that have resulted in significant pollution reduction and healthier environments. Outside at the Plastics Solutions Pavilion, DHEC staff members Liz Hartje (OCRM) and Adah Gorton (BLWM) distributed examples of innovative educational materials and discussed how DHEC works every day to foster partnerships, reduce pollution and promote recycling.

Although there is much work to be done, South Carolina’s coastal environment benefits from DHEC’s community-based pollution reduction efforts.

Complete conference details, including video of keynote speakers and panelists, is available at http://plastic.scaquarium.org/about.

To learn more about DHEC’s Marine Debris Program, please visit

http://www.scdhec.gov/HomeAndEnvironment/Water/CoastalManagement/MarineDebrisAbandonedVessel.