South Carolina Injury Attorneys
Confronting the Workers' Comp Opioid Epidemic

Confronting the Workers' Comp Opioid Epidemic

When it works correctly, our workers' compensation system provides much-needed relief to injured workers as they recover from an accident. However, even when benefits are awarded, there is a health risk that has become more and more prevalent: opioid abuse. Awareness of this problem is growing and Attorney Richard Davis and our team are on the forefront of the effort to combat it here in South Carolina.

Opioid Abuse & Workers' Compensation

All over the country, employers, medical experts, and advocates have seen a startling rise in opioid addiction among employees who have received workers' compensation benefits. The connection is simple: studies have shown that a majority of workers' compensation cases in many states involve prescriptions to opioids. The Workers Compensation Research Institute determined in 2014 that a startling 80% of all workers' comp cases in South Carolina contain prescriptions to opioids.

Opioids are powerful painkillers that are highly addictive. Oxycodone is an opioid, as is hydrocodone. Fentanyl, the substance found in musician Prince's system following his death this year, is also an opioid. Studies have found that injured workers frequently carry their opioid addiction beyond their medical recovery and can harbor it for years. Not only are these addictions potentially deadly for these individuals, but they are also costing us a fortune. Because these struggling individuals are often sick and unable to work, an Oxford University study found that opioid abuse could cost employers up to $25 billion.

What We're Doing in South Carolina

Attorney Richard Davis is the Chairman of the Narcotics Use Advisory Committee (NUAC). Earlier this year, Attorney Davis presented a list of new recommended measures to South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission. These measures were drafted with the help of representatives from the South Carolina Board of Nursing and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Council.

The recommendations include:

  • Support of new legislation that would require all authorized prescribers of opioids to register in the prescription drug monitoring program (PMP/SCRIPTS).
  • Required registration for all medical service providers that treat workers' compensation claimants to PMP/SCRIPTS.
  • Greater access to the PMP/SCRIPTS for insurance providers and prescription benefit managers.
  • Required compliance from medical service providers who serve workers' compensation claimants to adhere to opioid and narcotic education standards as established by the SC Medical Board and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.
  • Required medical service provider compliance with standard of care and guidelines for the treatment of chronic and acute pain established by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners, the Board of Dentistry's and Nursing Board's Joint Revised Pain Management Guidelines (adopted in 2014)

These are just some of the proposed measures put forth by the Narcotics Use Advisory Committee. If all of them are enacted, then they would be important first steps in combating this epidemic and ensuring that, when workers are hurt and need workers' compensation benefits, they are receiving careful and informed treatment from medical professionals. You can read the full 2016 Narcotics Use Advisory Committee proposal here.

If you or a loved one been injured at work, then securing workers' compensation benefits can be a challenge. At Christian & Christian, our Greenville workers' compensation lawyers understand the obstacles injured workers face when trying to claim these benefits and have time and time again helped clients fight for and secure the relief they deserve.

You do not have to file your claim without proven legal counsel by your side. Contact our firm today to start exploring your options.


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