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County of Avery Officials Seek Input for Using National Opioid Settlement Funds at April 24th Meeting

By Tim Garner

Avery County government officials are asking for input from the county’s citizens about National Opioid Settlement Funds during a special meeting on Monday, April 24th in the Board of Commissioners room suite on the second floor of the county’s administration building, located at 175 Linville Street in Newland.

The meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon, during which time frame county government officials will get input from Avery citizens attending of their opinions concerning how to best use the $1.7 million the county will receive in funds over the next 18 years from the National Opioid Settlement.  The county officials will seek ideas about using those funds for the opioid epidemic, support treatment, recovery, harm reduction, and other life-saving programs and services.

With more than 200 Americans, including eight in North Carolina, still dying of drug overdoses each day, in states and counties within each are beginning the high-stakes task of deciding how to spend billions of dollars in settlement funds from opioid manufacturers and distributors. Their decisions will have powerful implications for families and communities that have borne the brunt of the opioid crisis.

North Carolina will receive at least $750 million, and perhaps as much as $850 million, of the opioid settlement funds from the agreement reached with drug companies for their alleged roles in fueling the opioid epidemic. Most of the money will be sent to North Carolina’s County governments to help people and communities impacted by the overdose crisis.

The funds come from a multitude of lawsuits, most notably a $26 billion settlement resulting from more than 3,000 cities, counties and states suing manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health for their roles in the opioid crisis.

Payments from that case began in the summer of 2022 and will continue for 18 years, setting up what public health experts and advocates are calling an unprecedented opportunity to make progress against a drug epidemic that has ravaged America.

With various individuals and groups advocating for their share of the funds — from those dealing with addiction and their families to government agencies, nonprofits, health care systems and others — the money’s impact could depend heavily on what programs need the money most. And that’s what Avery County officials plan to determine through various means—especially the community input meeting on April 24th. They believe tracking the funds from who and/or what agencies receives the money and how those decisions are made is key to a successful and useful distribution of resources.

The lawsuit agreement specifies that states must spend at least 70 percent of the money for opioid-related expenses in the coming years and includes qualifying expenses, like expanding access to treatment and buying the overdose reversal medication naloxone. Fifteen percent of the funds can be used for administrative expenses or for reimbursement for past opioid-related expenses. Only the remaining 15 percent can be spent any way the governments choose.

If states don’t meet those mandates, they could face legal consequences and also have their future payouts reduced.

In North Carolina, online dashboards show how much money each locality is receiving and will track how it is spent. For more details, log online to:

opioidsettlement@dhhs.nc.gov.

For further information about Avery’s Opioid Settlement meeting, call the county manager’s office at (828) 733-8201.