Counties are preparing to spend millions of dollars from settlements reached with Johnson and Johnson and the nation’s largest opioid medication distributors.
A recent National Association of Counties article highlights the many opioid-related needs counties seek to address. In Maryland, nearly every county signed an agreement with the state to distribute its almost $400 million settlement award. At present, funds have yet to be disbursed due to uncertainty surrounding a consent judgment at the federal level.
Once funds have been received, NACo is offering its support through its Opioid Solutions Center, which is intended to “help guide counties evaluating their needs and deliberating about spending and as a resource for counties as they battle addiction in their communities.” The Center is a partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and includes a helpline for technical assistance.
NACo Immediate President Gary Moore was quoted in the NACo piece on broader settlement spending considerations:
‘The 911 center overwhelmed with calls and actions, our law enforcement, ambulance, all the other life support type programs we run… the county is touched in so many ways,’ said Immediate President Moore.
‘The money is starting to flow, but we also know that ARPA dollars are allowed expenses in some cases for some of the purposes that we’re dealing with, so this is the perfect time for nature to come together and announce what we’re going to be doing over the coming months.’
Several county officials discussed the impact of the opioid epidemic on their communities, including personal experiences of supporting relatives’ repeat stays at in-patient rehabilitation centers and the loss of loved ones. One personally-impacted county official suggested existing rehabilitation services and resources are insufficient and promoted a local project to convert a shuttered jail into a regional rehabilitation center. Attorney Shayna Sacks, who represents several jurisdictions in Maryland and beyond, stated the settlement agreements include approved uses of funds that are very broad in scope, potentially assisting projects like the rehabilitation center.
In addition to its Opioid Solutions Center, NACo will be convening “a national leadership network of 20-25 counties who are committed to addressing substance abuse disorder” to model best practices and new and innovative measures for other counties to observe.