GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office announced this morning that they’re partnering with Greenville County EMS for a new opioid response program.

Sheriff Hobart Lewis said the partnership is meant to stop the cycle of addiction before it becomes deadly.

“We hope, certainly, to break down some barriers, so people know we are there to help them,” Lewis said. “We are not here to arrest you for overdosing. We are not here to ask you who your supplier is, we have plenty of that information. We are simply here to get you the resources you need.”

Sheriff Lewis said he’s now asking for funding from state and county lawmakers to bring the program into the community.

“Oh, there’s plenty of money in the budget,” said Ashley Trantham, state representative for District 28. “It is just a matter of prioritizing it. We do feel that protecting people is a core function of government. Make no mistake, these people are victims.”

The sheriff’s office and EMS said the money would make it possible to add personnel to help those dealing with addiction. They’ll also be able to buy the equipment needed.

“This is a disease that is escalating in our community, that is drug addiction,” said Executive Director of Greenville County EMS, Tom Blackwell. “Especially fentanyl and the synthetic opioids that we are seeing more and more of in this community. We need the resources to help these individuals. There is nothing that plagues us more is to have out first responder personnel get on the scene and declare someone dead.”

State leaders, the sheriff’s office, and EMS said fentanyl is threatening many lives in our community.

“If we had 100 people right here in a closed area and you took a packet the size of a sweet and low packet at a restaurant and it was full of fentanyl, instead of sweet and low, and you threw it on the ground here, it would kill all of us,” Lewis said.

State lawmakers told us they believe this is a bi-partisan issue, with the recent passing of the fentanyl bill.