January 9, 2022, is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a day dedicated to showing our support for the law enforcement agents that work tirelessly to protect our state’s environment and stop the diversion and abuse of controlled substances.
DHEC thanks these men and women for the dedication, service, and commitment to the rule of law they display every day.
January 9 is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and DHEC wants to take a moment to honor all of the employees that serve in this role.
“Protecting our citizens’ health and the environment from those who will intentionally do harm is the primary mission of our DHEC Law Enforcement programs,” said Michael Tempel, DHEC Chief of Office of Law Enforcement for Environmental Affairs and Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Chairman. “Our officers and support staff work tirelessly to make sure our citizens are safe and violators are held accountable. I appreciate all their efforts and am proud to serve with them all.”
The agency has three law enforcement units:
Bureau of Drug Control
Office of Criminal Investigation
Shellfish Sanitation Program
Bureau of Drug Control (BDC)
DHEC’s Bureau of Drug Control (BDC) serves a regulatory role as well as provides enforcement of the South Carolina Controlled Substances Act. Our BDC inspections are pharmacists who have undergone additional training through the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy to become state law enforcement officers.
They conduct onsite inspections and audits of pharmacies, hospitals and practitioners to make sure they are properly recording, storing and handling controlled substances. These important members of our Health Regulation team make recommendations and offer assistance to help these entities follow proper procedures in handling these medications.
BDC inspectors respond to complaints and concerns reported to DHEC that sometimes indicate criminal activity or misuse of controlled substances. When warranted, they also make arrests.
In 2019, DHEC’s BDC had approximately 28,000 controlled substance registrants, and the drug inspectors typically conduct 750 to 850 annual inspections. DHEC’s inspectors work closely with local law enforcement, the DEA, and the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation in their ongoing fight against the misuse of controlled substances.
Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI)
The three-person Office of Criminal Investigation (OCI) team is responsible for investigating grossly negligent, willful and knowing violations of state and federal environmental criminal laws.
Investigations generally involve criminal violations of:
the Hazardous Waste Management Act,
Pollution Control Act,
Solid Waste Policy and Management Act,
State Safe Drinking Water Act,
Infectious Waste Management Act
and other general and related crimes.
Frequently, other crimes are uncovered during the investigation of environmental crimes, such as complex conspiracies, fraudulent schemes, and falsification of documents. OCI works closely with state and federal prosecutors to bring those responsible for all of these crimes to justice.
Shellfish Sanitation Program
The Shellfish Sanitation Program is a health and environmental protection program with three major responsibilities:
classification of the waters used for the growing and cultivating of molluscan shellfish,
certification and inspection of facilities that process and
distribution of shellfish and the patrol of those areas that are determined to be unsuitable for the harvesting of shellfish.
The 10-officer team primarily operates in the state’s coastal counties but conducts operations as needed throughout the state.
The DHEC Shellfish Sanitation officers also work closely with counterparts in the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Much of their work is performed outside of regular office hours on the coastal waters of the state.
Whether on the drug enforcement or members of our environmental affairs team, the officers that make up these three DHEC units Embrace Service and showLeadership and Collaboration. Thank you again for helping to promote and protect the safety and health of our communities.
International Overdose Awareness Day is held every year on August 31, as a day to create awareness about overdose and drug-related death. The day also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends who have experienced the death of a loved one due to overdose.
Would you be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose?
Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic, or has stopped
Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise (sometimes called the “death rattle”)
Skin complexion changes (bluish purple for lighter skinned people and grayish or ashen for darker skinned people)
Face is very pale or clammy
Body is very limp
Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic, or not there at all
What can you do if someone is suffering from an overdose?
Call 911 immediately. Emergency response personnel can save someone from overdosing by administering a dose of Naloxone. Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can be used to prevent and reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone is a safe medication that counteracts the effects of an overdose. If a person is not suffering from an opioid overdose, the medication will not affect them.
After the South Carolina Overdose Prevention Act became law in 2015, DHEC, in collaboration with the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office and South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS), created the Law Enforcement Officer Naloxone (LEON) program, which focuses on law enforcement officers who are frequently the first emergency responders to arrive on scene and response time is critical to saving lives. LEON’s goal is to provide comprehensive training to law enforcement agencies across South Carolina that focus on identification, treatment and reporting of drug overdoses attributed to opioids.
Learn more about how you can prevent an opioid overdose and about treatment resources in your area by visiting the DAODASwebsite at www.daodas.sc.gov.
Saturday, April 28, is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day , which 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 15th opportunity since 2010 to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. The national observance is held twice a year.
Find a location near you by visiting the DEA Diversion website and bring your pills for disposal. You can drop off unused prescription drugs at between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. (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 set a record when they turned in a little more than 456 tons (over 912,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,300 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 14 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 9 million pounds—more than 4,500 tons—of prescription drugs.
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 28 Take Back Day event, go to the DEA Diversion website.
Congratulations to Officer Dennis Sechler of the Shellfish Sanitation Program for being named DHEC’s 2015 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
Officer Sechler, who works in the Myrtle Beach Office in the Pee Dee Environmental Quality Control Region, accepted the award on Thursday from Director Catherine Heigel.
“He constantly helps other agencies and works tireless hours with new employees to instill the same values he believes in, which is a commitment to excellence as a public servant and in government,” explained his supervisor Mike Marshall. “But more than anything else, Officer Sechler is an unbelievably caring person with more character, honor, and integrity than most can wish for.”
A member of the Regional Emergency Response Team and the field training officer for the Shellfish Program, Officer Sechler exemplifies our agency’s core values of promoting teamwork and embracing service.
He assisted in developing the Shellfish Law Enforcement Training Curriculum for new Shellfish Law Enforcement Officers that complete the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy. This includes both classroom and hands-on training for new officers.
The primary goal of our shellfish program is to ensure that shellfish and the areas from which they are harvested meet the health and environmental quality standards provided by federal guidelines and state regulations. The patrol activities conducted by our Shellfish Officers play an important role in helping the program meet its goals. These patrols are conducted on foot, by boat and on land vehicles.
In addition to his regular duties and conducting weekend, holiday and night-time patrols, Officer Sechler has assisted the S.C. Department of Natural Resources with fish and wildlife cases and the Coast Guard with removal of sunken vessels from waterways and marinas to ensure no pollution is released to harm the environment or public health.
Congratulations and thank you for your service, Officer Sechler!