Local Governments Finding It Difficult To Make Proper Use Of Opioid Settlement Billions

(PatriotWise.com) — Big cities and small towns around the country are receiving settlement funds to help address the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States but some advocates worry that much of that money may not be getting used in ways that could make a difference.

Opioid settlements, including deals with drug stores like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart, as well as deals from pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma, require that the bulk of the settlement funds go to combating the opioid crisis.

According to Christine Minhee, who manages the website Opioid Settlement Tracker, local governments will be responsible for allocating more than half of the settlement funds.

Minhee said under the terms of the biggest settlement agreements, states can receive additional funding for each eligible locality with a population of more than 10,000 that signs onto the settlement.

In Burlington County, New Jersey, which includes rural areas and some suburban communities near neighboring Philadelphia, fourteen localities have received settlement funding of between $5,000 and nearly $88,000.

However, by last year, most of the Burlington County communities had yet to spend the funds allotted, nor had they begun to take steps to award the funding to local groups.

The Mount Laurel Police Department was put in charge of the settlement funds. It launched community outreach events where first responders discussed treatment and services for opioid addiction. However, advocates do not want police departments overseeing the funding.

Willingboro, New Jersey, used just over $57,000 in settlement funds to hold a back-to-school wellness event for students.

Researcher Sara Whaley from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University said approaches like the one in Willingboro do not rely on any assessment of community needs.

Marc Romano of Burlington County’s Prevention Plus said he wished communities would request proposals for how to use the settlement money in ways to support programs geared toward addressing the opioid crisis.

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