Sean Rayford file

A proposal that would require opioid prescribers to also prescribe an overdose reversal medication was approved by the South Carolina Senate Wednesday. Supporters say Senate Bill 571 would expand availability of the emergency medication naloxone, commonly called Narcan.

The bill is in part in response to the recent rise in overdoses in the Palmetto State before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase reinforces what health advocates are calling a critical need to expand access to overdose reversal medications for at-risk patients.

“The opioid crisis has reached an epidemic level across the country and South Carolina has not been immune from seeing increased deaths due to opioid addiction. This bill, when passed will save lives,” S.C. Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said in a press release.

Overdoses in the state remained 50% higher in 2020 than the same time in 2019, according to data from the S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. In May 2020 alone, emergency personnel responded to 915 suspected opioid overdoses in South Carolina — the highest monthly number ever recorded, a press release said.

“South Carolina’s commitment to eradicating the opioid epidemic has been steadfast, but there’s more work to do,” S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said in a press release. “Increasing access to these life-saving therapeutics would be an important step in the right direction, and I hope to soon have the opportunity to sign this legislation into law.”

The bill’s House equivalent, H.3366, has been referred to the House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee.

The two bills align with recent actions that the surgeon generalCDC, and FDA have taken to expand access to and use of naloxone, according to a press release.