MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Officials in Horry County say the heroin problem in the county has become an epidemic. Horry County Coroner Robert Edge said he used to see most heroin deaths at nightclubs or in areas with high drug activity, but now, EMS calls to overdose victims are becoming more prevalent during the day.

“We’re finding today that EMS is answering calls in mid-daylight at shopping centers, stores, just anywhere you can think of,” said Coroner Edge.

Assistant Chief Justin Gibbins with Horry County Fire Rescue said calls are coming in almost daily for overdoses.

“We encounter these patients anywhere from gas station bathrooms, to vehicles on the side of the road, to unresponsive at traffic lights, to drive-thrus at fast food restaurants. So it’s not something that is isolated to occurring in someone’s home,” said Asst. Chief Gibbins.

Coroner Edge says there are four or five heroin deaths a week in Horry County, but EMS crews have already responded over 500 times for overdoses this year. That’s almost double the number of overdose calls as this time last year.

“There’s kind of a false sense that we go and fix their overdose, but the real problem is their addiction,” said Asst. Chief Gibbins. He said fire rescue can administer a drug called Narcan that can sometimes bring an overdosed victim back after they have lost a pulse, but behavior doesn’t change until they seek help.

Asst. Chief Gibbins also says because Horry County Fire Rescue has to make so many overdose calls, their department often takes a hit.

“We’ve even gone to the same overdose patient twice in the same 24 hours, so it does become taxing on our resources,” said Gibbins. He also said because Narcan is now available to the public, the price has increased and the availability has decreased.

The Myrtle Beach Police Department will host a forum called “Facing the Heroin Epidemic Head-On” on August 16th at 6:30 p.m. at the Base Recreation Center.