Opioid settlement funding exceeds $1 million locally

Published 4:24 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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Roanoke-Chowan area officials are currently looking for the best ways to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to attack the opioid crisis head-on through helping those addicted and educating others about the deadly impact of these painkillers.

The money is coming from a state and national settlement with pharmaceutical firms in regards to the opioids crisis. More than $50 billion in settlement funds from pharmaceutical companies that made and sold opioid painkillers will be paid out over the next 18 years to state and local governments across the country.

To date, the four counties that comprise the Roanoke-Chowan area have received a combined $1,028,589. Hertford County tops that list with $422,128 as of April 1. Bertie County has received $274,738 followed by Gates County ($172,470), and Northampton County ($159,253).

There is much more to come to the state and each county.

Hertford County Interim Manager Kevin Patterson said the county has elected to go with strategy 1 for utilization of the funds to go within the 12 approved categories.

“We are currently working with a committee to further narrow the spending plan further to develop the best strategy for use of the funds in Hertford County,” Patterson stated.

Bertie Manager Juan Vaughan II noted that discussions have begun among stakeholders and partners over how to best invest the funds.

“But no decisions have been made as to how these funds will be spent in Bertie County,” Vaughan said last week.

Meanwhile, it appears that funding plans are closer to becoming reality in Gates and Northampton counties.

Commissioner Emily Truman is leading Gates County’s opioid implementation planning effort and has assembled a committee with a wide representation of county agencies and community members. That committee is tasked with establishing priorities for use of the opioid settlement funds.

In November 2023, Gates County and Gatesville officials held a town hall meeting regarding opioid awareness.

“The Town of Gatesville strongly supports the need for collaboration among our medical providers, law enforcement, and all first responders who deal with the terrible results of opioid addiction and overdose in our community,” said Gatesville Mayor Elton Winslow. “Likewise, we need to work closely with our school system, mental health agencies, and the Department of Social Services to share information and bring a united approach to prevent further addiction and deaths due to the abuse of opioids in our nation. Losing just one life is one too many in Gatesville and Gates County.”

Northampton County Manager Julian Phillips presented the opioid resolution to the county’s Board of Commissioners in November of last year. That document outlined the initiatives that the county plans to spend the settlement funds on throughout the funding period, including the following Option A initiatives:

Collaborative Strategic Planning

Early Intervention

Naloxone distribution

Post-overdose response team

Syringe Service Program

The money-to-date will be spent on a portion of one Community Paramedic’s salary for FY 24-25, a vehicle for the Community Paramedic to respond to Opioid-related calls and visitation for education and outreach post-call, medical supplies to stock the Community Paramedic vehicle, Narcan for Northampton County first responders and distribution throughout the community, training, and other supplies including but not limited to educational materials and medication lock boxes for distribution throughout the community.

“I believe the current funds are sufficient to help combat the opioid abuse in Northampton County,” noted Megan Vick, Northampton County’s Health Director. “As more funds are made available throughout the funding period, the Northampton County Opioid Taskforce will reevaluate the needs of our county and how we can best use the resources to fund relevant initiatives to help combat opioid abuse in our community.”

According to information from KFF Health News, $144,021,546.83 has been received thus far in North Carolina with $615,104,899 estimated to come.

Other settlements, including with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue, are still pending.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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