As the Chester County Commissioners recognize National Recovery Month throughout September, the County is also preparing to receive the first two payments in a $19.7 million 18-year opioid settlement agreement.
In anticipation of those payments, Vince Brown, Executive Director of the Chester County Department of Drug & Alcohol Services outlined his department’s long-term strategy at today’s Commissioners’ Meeting, to implement plans for the prevention and treatment of opioid use disorder, using the opioid settlement funds.
Chester County’s portion of the nationwide settlement will be disbursed over 18 years with the first two payments coming in 2022. The remaining payments will be received annually through 2039.
The presentation made at the Commissioners’ Meeting provided an overview of the allocation process and a draft strategy that outlines different tactics for using the opioid settlement funds, including treatment, prevention, abatement, and research. As Vince Brown explained, “The opioid epidemic has had a significant impact across the county, and on individuals, families, and communities. These funds will help maintain and enhance established programs and activities, and address gaps in services and other identified needs.”
Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz said, “Today’s presentation lays the groundwork for the County’s multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid epidemic that has led to death and devastation for families across our region.”
“For the sake of all in our county who have lost their lives, or are still battling substance use disorder, we vow to use these funds to help us continue – and expand – services and supports, addressing the current crisis while implementing important mitigation and prevention strategies for the future.”
The draft strategy includes approaches to maximize the settlement funds, while reaching the county’s diverse population through a set of programs, supports, and services intended to:
- Treat opioid use disorder
- Support people in treatment and recovery
- Connect people who need help to appropriate services
- Address the needs of individuals involved within the criminal justice system
- Address the needs of pregnant or parenting women and babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Prevent misuse of opioids
- Prevent overdose deaths and other harms
- Safely manage medication
- Collaborate with local emergency service providers and county or community-based organizations
- Provide training opportunities and encourage workforce development strategies.
“This crisis knows no bounds, but with the funds from the opioid lawsuit we can provide even greater opportunities for substance use intervention, treatment, and recovery services – made possible by developing a plan that responds to our community needs,” said County Commissioner Josh Maxwell.
“Vince Brown and his team have worked with our Overdose Prevention Task Force and other stakeholders to develop the different strategies that will effectively use the opioid settlement funds, and we thank them for their diligence, dedication and desire to fight this epidemic with every weapon they can,” added Commissioner Maxwell.
The money Chester County will receive is part of Pennsylvania’s $1 billion settlement, which is part of a national $26 billion agreement to resolve about 4,000 lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson and three pharmaceutical distributors. Seventy percent of the funds will go to local governments, 15% to a Commonwealth account and 15% to other litigating governmental entities.
“This epidemic has left an indelible mark on individuals and families in our county, and no amount of money compensates for the loss of life caused by opioid addiction” said Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline.
“While we are already working hard to combat the opioid epidemic in many ways, we can use the settlement funds to significantly reduce the devastation. The Opioid Settlement Strategy will drive our long-term approach to providing access to treatment services, supporting people in treatment and recovery, connecting people who need help to appropriate services, and increasing awareness, education, and resources.”
Through the effective actions of the Chester County Overdose Prevention Task Force, the County can claim one of the most comprehensive anti-opioid initiatives in the state.
Two initiatives to emerge from the task force’s efforts are the County’s COPE program, a 24/7 warm handoff service that helps individuals who have suffered an overdose transition from the emergency room to treatment; and the Chester County Color 5K, an annual that event raises awareness of the crisis and has contributed more than $200,000 towards the COPE program.