The Cumberland County commissioners will consider input from nonprofit agencies and the public on strategies to spend $16.9 million from the state to combat the opioid epidemic.
The money is the county’s share of a $26 billion settlement with drugmakers announced in July by state Attorney General Josh Stein.
The settlement, according to a news release from Stein’s office, resolved a lawsuit brought against pharmaceutical companies by Stein and attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The states said that the companies that make opioids helped fueled the epidemic.
The money will be distributed over 18 years, county Health Director Jennifer Green told the commissioners at a meeting Monday at the county courthouse.
The county will receive part of the funding this spring and another portion this summer, Green said. Additional payments will come annually until the $16.9 million total is met.
The Board of Commissioners will discuss options for spending initial funds at a May 12 meeting. The county also will seek input from local agencies and the public at large.
Green told the commissioners they have two strategies to consider: a high-impact strategy, or “things we know that work,” or a high-impact plan with a larger list of strategies.
“You can start with Option A, and you can spend the money immediately,” Green said. But she said Option B is “a more in-depth process that could take several months.”
Both strategies are focused on helping opioid addicts with recovery through various agencies that assist with housing, food, employment, and overall health care and wellness.
Money will be earmarked for Fayetteville, Spring Lake, Hope Mills and other communities in the county, Green said. Those would include Eastover, which Green said has seen an increase in opioid use.
“We know we have an opioid problem,” Commissioner Charles Evans told Green. “We know we have a substance abuse problem, too. We have others who can’t afford (opioids), so they rely on crack cocaine. We’ve got to do a better job and let people know where to go. We have people in need of a lot of attention.”
“Yes,” she told Evans, “they are cominglers.”
In other business Monday, the commissioners:
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at email@example.com or 910-624-1961.