Editorial roundup: Oct. 13, 2017

Posted

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Island Packet

Oct. 7

Lessons learned from hurricane

A year ago, Beaufort County was a wreck. Hurricane Matthew brought Category 2 winds and severe flooding to much of the county. It left roads impassable and homes severely damaged. It sucked sand from the beach. It wasted entire marinas and sent countless docks into the surf. Power was out, and sewer systems were gimpy.

As we observe the first anniversary of the largest storm to hit Beaufort County in recent memory, we must first thank our governments for doing a great job, especially the Town of Hilton Head Island, which was hit hardest.

We can look back and say we have learned that:

- Cash reserves must be in place, and once spent, they must be replaced pronto.

- More land is needed for debris collection.

- The dull work of government is the most important when storms hit: the grind of government paperwork to collect federal dollars, the task of documenting the impact on every building, the duty of expediting permits to get repair work humming quickly and adherence to plans and protocols that took so long to prepare. We've learned that "grunt work" is more important than visioning.

- Communication - swift and accurate - with the public is not a nicety but mandatory from all authorities, POAs and utilities.

- Plans for re-entry are equally important to evacuation. Businesses have a legitimate beef when they cannot get workers and supplies to evacuated barrier islands ahead of the crowd.

- Keeping drainage ditches and stormwater systems clear of debris and flowing freely must be a top priority year round every year. It's too late when the flooding starts.

- Insurance for homes and businesses promises to be more costly in the future. Governments must quit permitting construction in harm's way and must do much more to get people to relocate or mitigate potential damage in flood-prone areas, which is most of Beaufort County.

- The private sector is equally important to governments in recovery from a hurricane. Good Samaritans from many states came to Beaufort County to help. Churches and civic clubs responded. The Community Foundation of the Lowcountry reacted with a special system to take grant requests and push the money out, quickly and fairly. And countless people unassociated with any organization reached out to help. People also supported first responders, including power company linemen. Safety-net organizations were stretched thin: People lost food due to power outages, they lost income, and in some cases they lost their homes. We saw the power of charitable work - and the necessity of it.

Hurricane Matthew was not the big one. It was nothing like Hurricane Hugo, which blasted the Lowcountry in 1989. But it was bad. And from that experience, everyone in Beaufort County must learn how to be better prepared for the future.

The Post and Courier

Oct. 9

Opioid crackdown is just beginning

If the decades-long failure of the so-called War on Drugs has taught the nation anything, it's that we will be unable to arrest and imprison our way out of the current opioid crisis.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth applauding a multi-agency sweep that led to some 50 arrests of what law enforcement officers describe as some of the most active dealers in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties over the past few months. Authorities also seized 20 guns and large amounts of deadly drugs including heroin and fentanyl, The Post and Courier reported.

Officials noted the effort is just beginning.

"We arrested people whose drug distribution caused the death of people," said Jason Sandoval of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency in a news conference. "We arrested people for distributing drugs that, if not taken off the streets, might have also killed other people."

It's important to get drug dealers behind bars. But the addictive nature of opioid painkillers and heroin - 80 percent of heroin users start with prescription painkillers, according to the DEA - unfortunately means that others will soon fill their shoes.

A holistic approach is needed.

The state Legislature took great strides in that direction this year via a special task force on opioid abuse. Ten sensible pieces of legislation resulted.

This summer, for example, a law went into effect that will require all doctors in the state to track prescriptions in a statewide database. The effort will help monitor patients who might be "shopping around" for multiple prescriptions and better enable busy doctors to ensure that they aren't overprescribing potentially dangerous drugs.

With more opioid prescriptions than people in South Carolina, that's a needed change. Treatment is critical too. Medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone, has been scientifically proven to help wean addicts off deadly drugs. But it can be hard for some South Carolina residents - particularly those in rural areas - to access. New treatment centers may be needed. And updates to state Medicaid and private insurance policies could help make the cost more affordable for low-income residents. Each dose of methadone is relatively inexpensive, but daily treatment over a span of as long as two years can cost more than $10,000.

Saving lives is also vital. South Carolina had roughly 600 opioid or heroin-related overdose deaths in 2015, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Dozens of local police officers are now trained to use Narcan, a powerful drug that can reverse opioid overdoses and rescue people from the brink of death. Every officer in the area should carry it or similar antidotes and know how to administer them.

The opioid crisis is a widespread and deeply complex concern with many lives at stake in South Carolina. It's going to take a multi-pronged approach to prevent and treat addiction and save people in the process.

Getting the worst drug dealers away from the public and into jail is a step in the right direction.

And thanks to the hard work of local, state and federal law enforcement, our streets already are safer.