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CCU Atheneum: Participants in the heroin PSAs included, front row, Coroner Robert Edge, Maggi Hocker, Noreen Beck and Chris Hocker. Back row, from left, Krista Rosinski, Susan Metallo and Sheriff Phillip Thompson.
Participants in the heroin PSAs included, front row, Coroner Robert Edge, Maggi Hocker, Noreen Beck and Chris Hocker. Back row, from left, Krista Rosinski, Susan Metallo and Sheriff Phillip Thompson.

CCU creates public service announcements to address local heroin epidemic

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With heroin use in the Grand Strand area increasing to epidemic levels, law enforcement officials in Horry County contacted Coastal Carolina University President David A. DeCenzo to request help with developing public service announcements (PSA) to raise community awareness about the situation.

During the spring and summer, CCU’s Office of University Communication’s video production team created a series of PSAs that will be unveiled at a media briefing in September.

The effort on Coastal’s part was led by Martha Hunn, associate vice president for University Communication, who developed a team of campus representatives and community leaders to build the project. CCU students, under the guidance of Elizabeth Carter, associate director for alcohol and drug prevention services, conducted focus group research, bringing together a diverse pool of area parents and teens to help gauge the level of community awareness about the heroin crisis.

“Our research made it clear that there were serious misperceptions in the community that needed to be addressed,” said Hunn. "The focus group studies indicated that, while there is a broad recognition that a problem exists, the general public in the area is not fully aware of the magnitude of the epidemic and the widespread use of heroin across social and class lines."

A total of 18 PSAs were created, in 60-second, 30-second and 15-second formats. They put a human face and voice to the statistics by showing recovering addicts and their family members, law enforcement and emergency officials, civic leaders and addiction counselors, all talking directly into the camera about their personal experiences coping with this deadly local problem.

Capt. Bill Knowles of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit helped Hunn connect with individuals in the community who are recovering from heroin addiction. Myrtle Beach community leaders Bennie Swans and Mickey James and Conway clergymen Charles Pee and Jerry Faulk contributed their knowledge of trends and demographics of heroin use in the area.

Recovering heroin addicts Maggi Hocker, Chris Hocker and Krista Rosinski appear in the PSAs, as well as Maggi Hocker's mother, Susan Metallo, and Noreen Beck, the parent of a heroin user who died of an overdose.

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson, Horry County Coroner Robert Edge, Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and Horry County Fire and Rescue paramedic Michael Henry give on-camera perspectives of their experiences of dealing with the epidemic.

"Today, 90 percent of all drug crimes in the county are heroin-related," says Thompson. "Just five years ago it was only 5 percent."

Many who become addicted to heroin began by taking opiods and painkillers, but moved into heroin because of its cheapness and availability.

"It's actually easier to buy heroin than cigarettes," said Thompson.

 

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