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June 14, 2021

Overdose to Action

There were more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States from May 2019 to May 2020, establishing a new record for the highest number in a 12-month period. Unfortunately, South Carolina is not immune to this trend, seeing the largest increase in overdose deaths of any state, with spikes as high as 65% in the first eight months of 2020.

While our country turned its full attention to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, the opioid epidemic helped fuel a significant increase in overdose deaths across the country. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl continue to be the primary driver of overdose, however cocaine and psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, also saw considerable increases with psychostimulants now outpacing cocaine for overdose deaths.

“The increase in overdose deaths is concerning,” said Deb Houry, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “CDC’s Injury Center continues to help and support communities responding to the evolving overdose crisis. Our priority is to do everything we can to equip people on the ground to save lives in their communities.”

One of the tools CDC is equipping States with is Overdose to Action, a program that uses surveillance and prevention activities to reduce opioid overdose. In 2019, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) was awarded a four-year cooperative agreement from the CDC to support the Overdose to Action program. This cooperative agreement allows the Division of Injury and Substance Abuse Prevention (DISAP) to use funds for opioid prevention and surveillance in the community, and there is an important role hospitals and health systems can play to help advance overdose prevention strategies in our state.

Hospitals can participate in surveillance activities by providing specimens to help identify illegally manufactured fentanyl. This will help DHEC collect and disseminate valuable drug overdose information that can help pinpoint patterns and trends across the state to better target prevention and response efforts.

Currently, 32 hospitals have signed on to support this critical effort to curb preventable overdose deaths in South Carolina, and adding more facilities would only strengthen the data available to the state for this important work. If your hospital is interested in joining the Overdose to Action initiative or learning more, please contact Michael Tredway at

By working together, hospitals and health systems can provide valuable support to reduce drug overdose deaths and help lead South Carolina to a better state of health.