County Public Health Director Jennifer Green on Monday, May 2, gave the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners an overview of the planning process needed to acquire the county’s portion of money from a state opioid lawsuit.
Dr. Green gave county commissioners a number of options to consider when requesting the funds and will ask for the commission’s guidance during their upcoming May 12 agenda planning session.
North Carolina is part of a $26 billion settlement that will provide money to help bring relief to communities affected by opioid addiction. The state, its 100 counties and 45 municipalities joined the agreement. The money agreement is a result of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies deemed to have been responsible for creating and fueling the opioid epidemic.
Green told commissioners that the state will keep 15% of the money, with the remainder going to North Carolina counties and municipalities who are part of the agreement. She said Cumberland County will get about $16.9 million, and Fayetteville will get about $2 million. The state will distribute the money over an 18-year span.
A memorandum of agreement between the state and local government directs how the opioid settlement funds are distributed among the recipients. To access the money, local government must conduct annual meetings within each county; establish a special revenue fund, which cannot be co-mingled with other county funds; adopt a budget resolution that authorizes spending money, to include amount and time period, a spending strategy and forwarding information to the opioid settlement board. The requirements also include filing an annual financial report and annual impact reports.
Additionally, the MOA requires local government to choose a plan of action, giving two options.
Option A allows local governments to fund one or more strategies from a shorter list of “evidence-based, high impact strategies to address the epidemic.”
Option B allows local government to fund one or more strategies from a longer list of strategies after engaging in a collaborative strategic planning process involving a “diverse array of stakeholders”.
Green said the County could start with Option A and then switch to Option B, but it could not switch back and forth.
The next steps to getting the funding underway is to get the Commission’s guidance at the May 12 Agenda session; complete stakeholder and community feedback sessions scheduled for May and June; analyze the data, align the proposed strategies, and feedback from various stakeholders; and present the total findings to the county commissioners.
The funding flow starts immediately, with $652,543 becoming available this spring, $1,435,068 later this summer, and the remainder increments each following summer until 2038.
Commissioner Charles Evans asked if the money could be used to treat people addicted to other substances, such as crack cocaine. Green responded that the money has to be used for addiction treatment for opioids.
“That’s where the settlement comes from,” she said.
The commissioners also heard from Sharon Moyer, community engagement administrator for the Partnership for Children of Cumberland County. Moyer updated the commissioners on the Family Connects Program.
The program provides in-home or virtual nurse visitation to families with newborns in Cumberland, Hoke and Robeson counties. The visits occur about three weeks after the baby is born. There is no cost to the family.
The visits reduce hospital visits and have decreased child abuse reports by 44%, Moyer said. The program addresses issues like postpartum depression, household safety and parent-child relationships, among others. Moyer said Cape Fear Valley Medical Center now allows trained nurses to contact new mothers and provide them with an informational card prior to leaving the hospital.
In other action, the Commissioners unanimously agreed to extend another three-year lease to Coastal Horizons Center, Inc., a Wilmington-based non-profit providing substance abuse treatment. The organization is housed in the county-owned building at 412 Russell St. The county’s pretrial services and state parole and probation agencies also occupy the building. Coastal Horizons Inc. will pay the county $18,180 a year for 1,212 square feet of office space.