Metro leaders announce spending recommendations on first of $57 million in opioid settlement payouts to combat the opioid pandemic in Kentucky
LOUISVILLE, KY (RIOT) - Mayor Craig Greenberg, standing with public health leaders, those in the recovery community, and harm reduction experts, announced on Thursday a spending plan for the first installment of $7 million of opioid settlement funds. The settlement funds come from companies that distributed, dispensed, manufactured and sold opioid painkillers and failed to monitor or report suspicious shipments, which led to substance use disorders and permanent harm.
“Our community has lost too many loved ones, friends and neighbors to opioid overdoses, and no amount of money can bring them back,” said Mayor Greenberg. “According to a report from the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, there were more than 2,100 overdose deaths in our Commonwealth last year. Of those people, 505 were our neighbors here in Louisville Metro. This money will not bring those community members back, but we are working to make sure these funds help us heal by doing everything we can to prevent more tragedies.”
Jefferson County is now set to receive more than $57 million in direct payments during the 18-year lifetime of the settlements. This is an updated total following new national settlements finalized last month with defendants CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Teva and Allergan. Last year, Louisville Metro announced it would receive an estimated $31.8 million from an initial round of settlements. Currently, Louisville expects to receive payments of more than $7 million by the end of this year.
Louisville Metro is one of thousands of local governments across the nation receiving settlements from companies that manufactured and distributed opioid painkillers and helped fuel the opioid epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. These funds are separate from the state’s share of settlements. Louisville Metro initially filed lawsuits against distributors AmericaSource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson in August 2017.
“Louisville was one of the first major cities in the country to file lawsuits against the country’s three largest drug distributors when we started this now six full years ago,” said Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell. “Additional companies have been added in what has grown into some of the most complex litigation in our country’s history. This is personal to me and so many families. We can never get back the loved ones lost, but I am so grateful to be part of the work capturing these dollars that will repair some of the terrible harms caused by the opioid plague.”
In order to identify the best use of these funds, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) relied on both local data and national models for best practices and solicited input from community organizations providing evidence-based harm reduction services.
“Since 2015, our harm reduction outreach services program has helped more than 27,500 people by providing Narcan kits and overdose prevention training to residents and community partners. There have been nearly 11,000 self-reported overdose reversals,” said LMPHW Chief Health Strategist Connie Mendel. “This funding will help increase these efforts and allow more people in our community to access evidence-based solutions and equip them with tools and information to help save and rebuild lives.”
First disbursement of settlement funds targeted for harm reduction and saving lives
More than $1.5 million will be allocated to organizations working in harm reduction and provide outreach, education, overdose prevention, Narcan distribution, screening for HIV and hepatitis C, and linkage to medical, mental health and social resources with a goal of expanding outreach and services to underserved populations. These include:
Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition will expand outreach to the Latino community and residents in West Louisville.
University of Kentucky Target 4 Region 5 will establish a fixed location to expand outreach in West Louisville.
Feed Louisville will expand outreach efforts to promote harm reduction within Louisville’s homeless population.
LMPHW will extend the community supply of the lifesaving drug naloxone (brand name Narcan) and overdose prevention training to people in ZIP codes most affected by the opioid epidemic.
More than $250,000 will be invested in collaborative projects supporting transformative change throughout the community and address underlying root causes of substance abuse disorder. These include allowing Louisville Metro Government to contract with an external evaluator who will assess the effectiveness of the distribution strategies, hire an employee to serve as a project manager for a community advisory board and provide technical assistance to funded organizations.
Creating opportunities for evidence-based solutions
The remaining $5.3 million in this initial payment will be awarded through a public application process expected to launch in the fall. Funds will be awarded to applicants who submit competitive proposals that align with the approved uses of the settlement. Louisville Metro Government will look for plans that are evidence-based and address community needs and will be prioritized for strategies to prevent future substance use by youth and individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and strategies to promote long-term recovery. More details about the application process will be shared in mid- to late September.
Proposals will be reviewed, and funding decisions will be made by an Opioid Settlement Distribution Advisory Board appointed by the Mayor. The board will include those with a prior history of substance use disorders, healthcare professionals and representatives from treatment and recovery programs.
Like the annual budget, these expenditures will need to be approved by Metro Council before funds can be awarded to these projects.
“To those affected by the opioid epidemic, in whatever way, I want you to know that we will work as hard as we can to make sure we make the most of this opportunity to bring hope and healing to our community,” said Mayor Greenberg. “These funds are hard-earned, and we owe it to every person and every family touched by the destruction of opioids to use this money to stop this devastation and prevent more misery. That is exactly what we plan to do.”
DIRECT RELEASE FROM LOUISVILLE METRO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH & WELLNESS
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