COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – A new partnership in South Carolina is teaming up with university researchers and staff from various state agencies to help those 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.

Officials say they will initially work together to utilize 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.

DAODAS Director Sara Goldsby said this partnership is the next step in how South Carolina approaches substance use disorder holistically, “We got so much expertise at these research institutions and state agencies so it makes sense to put them all under the same umbrella.”

Officials say health system performance data will also serve as a crucial 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.

Goldsby said they’ll assist local governments who are receiving millions of dollars due to opioid litigation settlement.

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.

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 Center will host a website dedicated to providing the public with information about its activities, along with educational resources.

The latest figures from state officials show in 2020, there were more than 1700 fatal drug overdoses in South Carolina. Data for 2021 has yet to be finalized.