In response to the evolving addiction crisis that is impacting communities throughout South Carolina, South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services (DAODAS) Director Sara Goldsby and Governor Henry McMaster has announced a new partnership involving the state’s three research universities that will improve the state’s ability to identify and treat South Carolinians suffering from addiction.
The partnership, formalized by a Memorandum of Understanding and named the “S.C. Center of Excellence in Addiction”, includes DAODAS, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, and the Medical University of South Carolina.
University researchers, with technical and administrative assistance from the two state agencies, will initially work together to use available data in an effort to better understand how the state is performing in three key areas: identifying individuals with substance use disorders, treatment of those who have been identified, and retaining those currently in treatment. This information will be critical in designing effective interventions, improving access to treatment, and effectively targeting assistance to regions of the state that are struggling the most.
“By centralizing the efforts of our immensely talented state agencies and universities, the S.C. Center of Excellence in Addiction will help us identify and treat South Carolinians more effectively and ensure that resources are being utilized in the most efficient ways possible,” said McMaster.
“Governor McMaster frequently asks us to act boldly, and to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in our work. By doing just that, and by leveraging the expertise from our state agencies and research universities, we have the unique asset of centralized support for addiction efforts statewide,” said Sara Goldsby, Director of DAODAS. “Although the Center of Excellence has just been established, there is unlimited potential for it to advance our work on addiction for many years to come.”
Health system performance data will also serve as a baseline that will allow the state to gauge the success of major public investments to address the opioid epidemic. The Center will strengthen the quality of how the state addresses addiction by securing data that will help stakeholders implement best practices.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our state’s government and universities to join forces to address one of the most profound public health challenges of our time,” said Dr. Christina Andrews of the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. “We are honored to be a part of this important effort to improve access to high quality addiction treatment and prevention services throughout the state.”
In addition to data gathering, the Center will engage the universities’ and state agencies’ program and service implementation specialists and data scientists with expertise in implementing and rigorously evaluating evidence-based strategies and clinical care to address addiction and help improve the public health response to the drug crisis. Specific quality-focused support and clinical consultation will be available to service providers and local colleagues, as well as other entities engaging in prevention, intervention, treatment, and/or recovery efforts.
“We are excited to work closely with key stakeholders and organizations to implement proven models of addiction care, and to develop new models to transform addiction care across South Carolina,” said Dr. Alain Litwin of Clemson University and USC School of Medicine – Greenville. “Our ultimate goal, a collective mission with these important partners, is to eliminate all opioid-related fatal overdoses in South Carolina.”
Facilitated learning opportunities will also be made available by the Center through telementoring and virtual, remote education. Focused support, guided practice, and case-based learning will be made available to healthcare and other service providers.
“The addictions team at MUSC is excited about this opportunity to improve prevention and treatment of substance use disorders throughout the state,” said Dr. Kathleen Brady of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “Through these efforts, South Carolina will become a model for other states in how to drive discovery and implementation of state-of-the-art prevention and treatment initiatives.”
The Center will host a website dedicated to providing the public with information about its activities, along with educational resources.
“The opioid addiction problem in South Carolina is unfortunately bigger than any one agency or institution’s scope, and addressing it responsibly and robustly demands the kind of multi-partner collaboration and commitment that this new Center represents,” said Dr. Ed Simmer, Director of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.