AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — In Aiken County, a significant step is being taken in the battle against the opioid epidemic.

“It impacts everyone right now, statistically speaking, that we are expecting about 120 overdose deaths in Aiken County by the end of this calendar year,” said Executive Administrator of the Aiken Center, Catherine Vance.

Aiken County Council is partnering with a local recovery group to work with inmates with substance abuse issues. Inmates in the Doris Gravat Detention Center will receive peer support from the group.

“It’s a huge problem. Nationally speaking, we’re looking at statistics at around 85% of the incarcerated population either actively have substance use disorder or were influenced or under the influence of a substance while they were committing the crime that landed them in prison.”

The plan involves bridging the gap between in-jail services and post-release support.

“When someone’s released from the detention center, that is a huge risk for them for overdose if they had previously used opiates or another substance because their tolerance decreased while they were incarcerated,” added Vance.

She believes fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is a driving force behind the epidemic’s growth. “It’s expected to be in about 80% of the drug supply right now nationally. So that’s significantly increasing the overdose rates,” shared Vance.

The Aiken Center will gauge the program’s success by looking for fewer substance use disorders and post-release overdoses. “And studies show and support that this investment now helps to reduce the cost to the public later,” added the

The money will come from Purdue’s Opioid Settlement. Purdue Pharma was sued for its alleged role in the epidemic. Meanwhile, leaders say they hope to launch the program within the next few months.