Category Archives: Health Regulation

DHEC Encourages Disposal of Unused Prescription Drugs through Take-Back Programs

Saturday, October 28, marks the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. You can drop off unused prescription drugs at participating collection sites between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.

Held twice a year, this national observance aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs, while educating the public about the potential for abuse of medication.

In South Carolina, 102 prescriptions for painkillers are now written for every 100 residentsIn 2015, there were 570 accidental prescription drug overdose deaths in the state.

To help address this problem, DHEC is working with health care providers and pharmacists across the state to identify and stop prescription drug abuse. DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control is charged with administering the South Carolina prescription monitoring program.  The centralized database, known as the South Carolina Reporting and Identification Prescription Tracking System (SCRIPTS), allows authorized users access to controlled substance dispensing data, helping to make it easier for South Carolina doctors and pharmacists to identify and report potential prescription drug abuse.

The intent of the database is to improve the state’s ability to identify and stop the diversion of prescription drugs in an efficient and cost-effective manner while not hindering the appropriate medical use of illicit controlled substances where there is a valid prescriber-patient or pharmacist-patient relationship.

Make use of take-back programs

DHEC encourages the disposal of unused household medications through take-back programs, as well as drop-off collection boxes, as a way to effectively serve and protect the citizens of South Carolina.

The take-back programs help reduce childhood overdoses, restrict household drug theft, Medicines (2)limit the accumulation of drugs by the elderly, protect our physical environment, reduce pharmaceutical contamination of fresh water, and eliminate waste.

Also, research indicates that patients often do not take prescribed medications as directed, if at all. Thus, many unused medications are diverted, abused, and misused and could potentially lead to a major cause of accidental poisonings and arrests. The South Carolina law enforcement community has seen arrest rates for prescription drug-related offenses rise in the past several years.

Helping to protect our environment

In addition, after being flushed or poured down a drain, many medicines pass through sewer and septic systems. Because these systems cannot always treat or remove the medicines, they may end up in streams, lakes and groundwater. This can cause adverse effects in fish and other aquatic wildlife as well as unintentional human exposure to chemicals in the medications.

Keeping prescription and over-the-counter medicines out of the environment is an important way to prevent pollution. Drug disposal programs and events like drug take-back days provide a safe alternative to disposing unwanted or old medications.

Find out where to go 

To locate a collection site nearest you, click here.

DHEC in the News: Opioid summit, viral meningitis, beach restoration

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

S.C. governor schedules summit on opioid crisis

COLUMBIA – As part of the state’s response to issues related to prescription opioids and heroin in South Carolina, the 2017 S.C. Governor’s Opioid Summit will be held Sept. 6-7 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

Sponsored by the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, the summit will be a statewide response to the opioid epidemic, bringing together healthcare professionals, state and local agencies, concerned citizens and law enforcement to collaborate on solutions.

Student has viral meningitis says Union Co. Schools

UNION Co., S.C. (WSPA) – School officials say one Union County student has been diagnosed with viral meningitis.

Union County Schools confirmed the child attends Buffalo Elementary School.

Officials say the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has been notified and areas where the child was at school have been deep cleaned.

School officials say they were told that the school is safe for other children since it is not bacterial meningitis, which can cause serious complications and be deadly.

Meningitis is an inflammation of tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord.

General Interest

Isle of Palms to dredge more than 75,000 dump trucks of sand to restore Wild Dunes beach

ISLE OF PALMS — Erosion-plagued Wild Dunes will get another shot of sand in the fall aimed at stabilizing a resort beach where a history of lost shoreline has included golf course damage and ocean water swirling under condos.

Officials hope the latest effort at restoring the shore will be underway in October and completed in a little more than two months.

DHEC in the News: West Nile virus, new operating room, Palmetto Health fine

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Avoid mosquito bites to defend against the West Nile virus

It is mosquito season and West Nile virus has made its way to Beaufort County. Now is the time to take action to protect ourselves from becoming infected with West Nile or other mosquito-borne diseases.

Working together, we can reduce the chances of people getting the disease among the many who live, work and play in this wonderful coastal community. Every local government, business, school, neighborhood association, community organization and individual has a role to play.

OR open for business

The Williamsburg Regional Hospital (WRH) was no match for the October 2015 flood. Severe damage to key areas of the building forced administration to close her doors. Since then a temporary hospital was constructed on the same site. The facility functions as a regular hospital with the exception of an operating room. Fortunately, that changed on August 8.

“We are so excited,” said WRH CEO Sharon Poston after a final inspection of the new operating room by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

Palmetto Health fined for mishandling hazardous waste

The Palmetto Health Richland has been fined $28,000 by DHEC for mishandling hazardous materials.

Among the violations were that hospital staff failed to keep containers holding hazardous waste closed during storage; failed to mark containers of hazardous waste; failed to maintain aisle space to allow the unobstructed movement of personnel and emergency equipment; and failed to properly keep manifests of the materials.

DHEC ordered the hospital to rectify the situations, keep proper records and institute a training program in addition to the fine.

DHEC in the News: Saluda Watershed, Opioid Crisis, Don Holt Bridge

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

How one group plans to improve water quality in the Saluda Watershed

(Greenville, SC – Greenville Journal) Save Our Saluda, an environmental advocacy group, has received $54,550 from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to create a plan to reduce sediment runoff in the North Saluda River and Saluda Lake, which provide drinking water and recreation for thousands of Upstate residents.

“The plan will be a roadmap for restoration and protection efforts and will help facilitate funding for future implementation projects,” said Melanie Ruhlman, president of Save Our Saluda, in a press release. “I am especially excited about the wonderful partnership of organizations that have agreed to cooperate and help guide the project.”

The group has partnered with 11 stakeholders, including Greenville County, Greenville Water, and Renewable Water Resources, to complete the plan and restore the lake and river, which have experienced high levels of sediment runoff over the years from development and other sources.

The Midlands is getting a lethal dose of this dangerous drug cocktail

(Lexington, SC – WIS) A lethal drug cocktail is setting up camp in South Carolina.

The mystery concoction goes by many names: “China White,” “Tango and Cash,” and “Murder Eight.” It’s a drug we all know: heroin. But now, in epic proportions, dealers are cutting it with synthetic opiates like fentanyl and carfentanil.

Lt. Robby Lint runs the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department’s Narcotics Division.

“It’s everywhere. The increase has come – it’s made it,” Lt. Lint said. “It’s not just nationally you see it in the big cities and all the other big states and all that. It’s everywhere. And it’s here in Lexington County.”

In 2016, there were 44 overdose deaths in Lexington County. So far in 2017, there have been 25 overdose deaths, with the coroner attributing 18 of those to opioid overdoses.

It’s worse in Richland County: in 2016, there were 44 opioid overdose deaths. Through June 2017, the county has already topped the 44 overdose death.

“It’s across the board touching everybody,” Lt. Lint said. “It’s not your typical what we’re used to hearing or seeing drug addict.”

In fact, white males between the ages of 25 to 34 and 34 to 55 are the most likely group to overdose. According to DHEC, males are 40 percent more likely to overdose than women.

Charleston bridge tarp collapse could have released hazardous waste into river

(Charleston, SC – AP) – The collapse of the tarps on Don Holt Bridge has prompted an investigation into possible environmental contamination.

The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that the tarps that fell onto Interstate 526 last week were supposed to serve as a containment system to catch any hazardous waste created from the cleaning of lead paint on the structural steel.

The state contract for the work states that the contractor responsible for cleanup must report release of lead into the environment exceeding regulatory limits to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

A DHEC spokesman says the agency hasn’t received reports of material falling into the Cooper River. Eagle Industrial Painting of Ohio received the painting contract.

Department of Transportation spokesman James Law says the final investigation report will include environmental issues.

For more news on health and the environment, visit our blog regularly.

DHEC in the News: West Nile Virus, Infant Sleep Safety, Mt. Pleasant Water, Assisted Living Facility

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

Hurricane Matthew continues to leave its mark on Beaufort County with West Nile cases

(Beaufort, SC – Island Packet) Just two human cases of the West Nile virus have ever been confirmed in Beaufort County — both within eight months of Hurricane Matthew.

Gregg Hunt, Beaufort County Mosquito Control director, said the timing of the events is no coincidence.

“Hurricane Matthew has played a major role in what we’re seeing,” Hunt said.

“After Hurricane Matthew, a lot of debris had fallen into standing water caused by the flooding and tidal waves,” he said. “And organic material decaying in the water produces an ideal breeding ground for that kind of mosquito (that carries West Nile) … That’s what set the tone after the hurricane.”

—-

According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control, about 1 in 5 people who are infected with the West Nile virus will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. These people likely will have a full recovery, but fatigue and weakness could last for weeks or months.

Less than 1 percent of those infected will develop a serious neurological illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, according to the release.

Mom’s heartbreaking Facebook post raises awareness about safe sleeping conditions for babies

(Greenville, SC – FOX Carolina) According to DHEC, 194 babies died between 2009 and 2015 in South Carolina due of unsafe sleeping conditions, making this the third leading cause of infant deaths in the state.

“This cause of death is 100 percent preventable,” said Michelle Greco, manager of the Child Abuse Prevention Program at Greenville Health System.

Greco says babies under 1 year of age should sleep in a crib or bassinet with a fitted sheet and a firm mattress.

“Anytime that an infant under the first year of life is put down to sleep it needs to be treated the same,” said Greco, “They need to be alone with no other people, pets or objects.”

Mt. Pleasant residents ‘trying to have faith’ as they wait on results of DHEC water tests

(Mt. Pleasant, SC – ABC News4)  Several people living in Mount Pleasant want answers to concerns over water quality, and DHEC is now doing something about it.

Tuesday, workers were in Mount Pleasant testing water samples. It’s all part of an effort to find out if there is something in the water that could pose a health hazard.

DHEC samples were taken from three houses in the Mount Pleasant area. Officials with Mount Pleasant Waterworks said they chose those areas because of recent concerns.

Charleston assisted living facility where woman was killed by nearby alligator could face enforcement from DHEC

(Charleston, SC – Post and Courier) …Department of Health and Environmental Control investigators found [Brookdale Charleston] staff did not follow their own guidelines to conduct night checks on [Bonnie] Walker, a plan put in place when she had wandered off before. She had left the facility days prior “looking to go home,” and staff decided she needed to be housed in a memory care unit.

Now Brookdale Charleston could be facing enforcement action from DHEC. Representatives of the facility met with state officials June 13. A spokesman for DHEC said the two parties are “working on finalizing a consent order.” Brookdale declined to comment on the matter.

Such meetings are an opportunity for a facility to present any evidence of their own, said Pam Dukes, formerly a health regulator with DHEC. It would be “very unusual” for the negotiation not to end in enforcement, Dukes explained, which could mean a fine or a license suspension.

For more health and environmental news, check Live Healthy SC regularly.