Horry County leaders fight heroin epidemic for over a year, still not much has changed

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – For more than a year now, Horry County leaders have been talking about the heroin problem, but the county coroner says not much has changed.

Horry County’s Coroner Robert Edge says the heroin epidemic is the worst thing he’s had to deal with since he’s been there in the last 20 years.

Just over a year ago, in a public safety meeting, Horry County Council Chair Mark Lazarus said people who overdose on heroin need to go to jail.

“If these people know that they’re going to have to go to jail and suffer the consequences then maybe at that time too there’s treatment options and things that we can have,” said Lazarus.

It was his plan to help better the epidemic, but by law, the county couldn’t enforce it.

Public service announcements were spread throughout the county, but Edge says about five people still die from overdoses per week.

“I thought with the public service announcements that we’ve been seeing on TV that maybe they would have dropped a little bit, but they are not dropping,” said Edge.

We’ve taken you to town hall meeting after meeting where state and local leaders talk about how to handle the problem, but no real solution has been found.

“It’s going to take more drastic measures than what we have now in place,” said Edge.

Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill says they’ve been working with a federal task force to take big time dealers off the streets, partnering with drug treatment centers, forming drug coalitions, and placing drug drop boxes around the county.

Edge says nothing will change in Horry County until money is put together for treatment centers and law enforcement is able to require users to get help.

“I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus, but it takes a general assembly in Columbia to enact these rules and regulations, and I haven’t seen any yet not that I am aware of and maybe they’re working on them and maybe they just haven’t been perfected, but they’ve got to make the first move to give law enforcement some teeth to work with,” said Edge.

Edge says at this rate, he’s worried the number of drug related deaths won’t go down for a long time without action.

He says they continue to see new forms of heroin out on the streets that their labs can’t even identify.