MUSC part of Center of Excellence in Addiction with statewide team

A spilt vial of pills.

By Celia Spell

Multiple state entities have come together in the past year to form the South Carolina Center of Excellence in Addiction to support local municipalities in navigating resources for opioid addiction in their areas. 


As a collaboration between state research institutions and state agencies, MUSC, Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control have created a space where they can work as a team to lessen the local impact of opioid misuse. 


While opioids can be effective at managing pain, they can also be addictive. In 2021, the SC Department of Health and Human Services reported that over 15,000 people in the state were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder. 

Kathleen Brady, M.D., Ph.D., is a clinical and translational researcher at MUSC, the director of the SC Clinical and Translational Research Institute and an executive team member for the Center of Excellence. She says MUSC brings an important contribution to the partnership: education. The Center’s mission is to maximize the state’s opioid and addiction knowledge and resources through community engagement, collaboration and research. Brady says education is vital to that aim. 

“The CoE brings together an incredibly talented team of individuals from across the state,” she said. “Together, we can make a much larger impact than any one institution can do on its own.”


By analyzing treatment data, the Center can evaluate the success of the state’s current treatment system, improve access to treatment, and guide clinical interventions. By offering free consultations with opioid treatment and reduction strategy experts, the Center can connect with clinicians and provide information on topics like pain management, withdrawal and treatment. A clinician warmline operates from Monday to Friday each week. And by hosting biweekly substance use disorder training sessions, the Center works with local leaders and experts to share the most effective approved abatement strategies. 


The training sessions are also part of a movement called Project ECHO, or Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, and have been popular among clinicians and community leaders alike. Jodi Manz, director of the Center, says they often see firefighters and EMTs at these sessions. “We offer space for local leaders to learn about how to implement evidence-based strategies and connect with one another about the issues that communities face in addressing overdose,” she said. 


In its first year of operations, the Center has focused on outreach and education with MUSC at the helm. Brady says some municipalities might not even realize they have funds to help them control and treat opioid misuse in their area. With funding from several entities, local governments and municipalities have access to money earmarked specifically for opioid abatement, and the Center has resources to guide them through the best ways to utilize it. 

Brady hopes that their next focus is on growth. She sees opportunities for the program to expand beyond opioids in the future to other substances as patterns in addiction emerge and evolve. “The activities of the Center will change over time to meet the changing needs of South Carolina,” she said. “With state-of-the-art information systems coupled with our expertise in prevention and treatment, the Center can meet the substance use disorder challenges facing the state today and tomorrow."