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
- 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 & Davis LLC, 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.