Dare County considers how to spend 422K from opioid settlement

By on July 2, 2022

County will receive $3.4 million over 18 years

By Corinne Saunders | Outer Banks Voice

Part of the opioid settlement money may go to a fentanyl public awareness campaign. (dea.gov)

During a June 30 meeting of the Saving Lives Task Force, Dare County Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Sheila Davies presented proposals for how the county can spend about $422,000 it will receive this fiscal year as its share of the $26 billion opioid litigation settlement.

Overall, Dare County will receive a total of $3.4 million over the next 18 years from the settlement reached last year with four companies accused of helping fuel the nation’s opioid crisis. At the meeting, Davies reported that the county will get about $422,000 for FY 2023, and she outlined a plan to spend those funds in areas ranging from purchasing more naloxone to launching a “Fentanyl Kills” public awareness campaign.

The plan is expected to be voted on at the Dare County Board of Commissioners’ Aug. 1 meeting. According to the North Carolina Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), opioid settlement funding must be spent in one of three ways — for treatment, recovery support or harm reduction.

During a public discussion that followed the presentation, some speakers described the heavy toll taken by drug addiction and others lamented the lack of a local treatment center.

Davies told those at the June 30 meeting that some of that $422,000 has been committed to two county positions already approved by the commissioners – including $70,000 to sustain the existing overdose response coordinator job and $100,000 to fund the new position of a probation officer for the county’s recovery court program.

Noting that the “the rest is not committed; these are suggested,” Davies outlined the other proposed spending areas, including: $30,000 for the purchase of naloxone for community distribution; $15,000 for fentanyl testing strips for community distribution; $40,000 for a “Fentanyl Kills” mass public awareness campaign; $122,000 for community initiatives, including contract services and mini grants to other agencies; and $25,000 for “linkage to care/social determinants of health.”

Naloxone is the so-called rescue drug that can reverse the most severe impacts of an opioid overdose. The DHHS has been spending about $100,000 annually on naloxone, using other grant funding. This allocation will “keep it whole,” so the same funding level is maintained, Davies explained.

Fentanyl testing strips are used to test for the presence of the drug fentanyl in other substances. “It may be a moot point soon,” said Wally Overman, Saving Lives Task Force co-chair, about fentanyl. “It seems to be in everything coming in; almost one hundred percent” of other drugs.

“If it saves one life, we think it’s worth it,” Roxana Ballinger, the other Saving Lives Task Force co-chair, noted.

Davies explained that the county has seen “a number of fatalities” recently from individuals “having a recreational party” who overdosed and died not knowing their product was laced with fentanyl.

As to the public awareness campaign, Davies said she recently saw big billboards with the words, “Fentanyl Kills” prominently displayed in Phoenix, Arizona. She would like to bring that idea here, as well as put flyers at businesses and use social media. A working group would be set up to decide particulars for the awareness campaign.

The linkage to care/social determinants of health “is currently funded through a couple different grants,” Davies said, with about $100,000 being spent in the current fiscal year. The effort is designed to help people into treatment if they don’t have the funds and to provide counseling in the Dare County Detention Center. The next seven months are covered under “a Justice Grant,” and this allocation simply maintains the same level of funding, she explained.

The community initiatives portion of the funding supports ongoing work in the community by various agencies and entities. This funding would be distributed to the groups providing services — as long as they meet one of the criteria in the MOA — through a prioritization process, potentially using the Saving Lives Task Force for this prioritization, Davies said.

During the public discussion following Davies’ presentation, several attendees spoke passionately of the need for more local, long-range options for detox and treatment.

One man said his son has gone through “a bunch of 30-day programs. None worked.” Longer programs did work, he said, adding that mental health goes hand-in-hand with addiction and also “needs to be looked at.”

“I’m a little disheartened to see minimal funding going to treatment,” said Paris Murray, a licensed therapist and Saving Lives Task Force member. “That is a major gap.” After the meeting, Murray said that she works with children and adolescents in the county. Two of her clients are in recovery from opioids, but all have been affected, whether from having parents with drug problems or having friends die from overdoses.

Speaking at the event, Holly Henry-West said that her 30-year-old son struggled with heroin addiction for 10 years. “My son has lost 22 friends in four years [to opioids],” she added. “Can you say that about your high school and college friends?”

In response to those advocating for a new treatment center, Davies and Saving Lives Task Force officials said that between building, staffing and other operational costs, even the northeastern region pooling every cent of every county’s opioid funding wouldn’t be enough to cover the costs.

“It’s desperately needed,” Overman noted, to numerous murmurs of agreement. He and other Dare County leaders traveled to Plymouth and looked at the possibility of buying the former hospital there to use as a treatment facility, even bringing Trillium Health Resources into that conversation. Monetarily, it wouldn’t work, Overman said, adding that he only sees a new treatment center happening through state legislation.

Another speaker was Justin Parker, a licensed mental health provider and licensed substance abuse provider with Pathways to Life, which works with adults and children — some of whom live with parents suffering with substance abuse.

Parker discussed the idea of learning what works from successful programs elsewhere, even in other states. “I think everyone understands there’s not enough money,” he added. “We need to spend it as wise as we can. The only way to do that is get data on what’s working.”

 

 

 




Comments

  • Billnc

    I think an inpatient drug/alcohol detox and treatment center would be beneficial. No offense, but putting up billboards telling people who are helplessly addicted to opioids, that it will kill them, is a big waste of money.

    Saturday, Jul 2 @ 1:36 pm
  • surf123

    How is $100,000 going to fund a new position in the out years. Hiring someone based on a one-time award is irresponsible. Dare BOC has just snuck a new position into the payroll knowing full well the funding for this position will have to be new money.

    All of the government settlements with private companies who sell legal products is un-American. With live in a capitalist economy where the goal is to make products that will sell to one or more market segments. The opioid companies made a product that there was a need for and doctors wrote prescriptions for them. There are only two entities to go after for opioids and they are the doctors for prescribing them and the person taking them. People need to learn to be responsible for themselves and not to be an unnecessary burden to others or society.

    As for signs please do not waste the money. We have lived through 40 years of “don’t do drugs” and “drugs will kill you and/or ruin your life” awareness campaigns and nothing change. They were of zero benefit to everyone except the people making the signs, broadcasting the commercials, and printing advertisements. The end user got nothing out of it, but a lot of people (politicians and government employees) got to feel real good about themselves for supporting the campaigns.

    Saturday, Jul 2 @ 5:18 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Surf, you have a generous view of the corporate culpability here. No such thing as corporate responsibility?

    “The distributors shipped more than three-quarters of the nation’s opioids to pharmacies, rarely raising red flags even when quantities were wildly disproportionate to a store’s local population, according to federal data. Over 10 years, for example, the companies shipped nearly 21 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies four blocks apart in a West Virginia town with a population of 2,900.”

    Saturday, Jul 2 @ 10:12 pm
  • CEL

    Flyers in businesses usually end up in the trash. Billboards – where in dare county would that be seen? please consider hiring an advertising agency to craft messaging, do some research and manage the mix of placement. flyers in businesses won’t move the needle and neither will a billboard. social media is ok as long as the messaging is right. hire a professional and get a comprehensive educational campaign going. seems like everything is a reaction which is definitely needed but we should try and get in front of it a little and be proactive where we can!!

    Saturday, Jul 2 @ 8:06 pm
  • Bob

    Here’s a fresh idea. How about returning the money to the taxpayers through lowered tax rates? It’s not yours to spend as you like.

    Sunday, Jul 3 @ 8:32 am
  • Dantha OBX

    Do not waste the money o billboards. We have had years and years of “just say no” awareness campaigns and nothing changed. They were of NO benefit to anyone except the people making the signs. The folks to whom it was targeted got nothing out of it, but some politicians and government employees felt good about themselves for supporting the campaigns.

    Sunday, Jul 3 @ 9:08 am
  • Regina Myers

    As a former Probation & Parole Officer, funding 1 new position will not do any good if there are no resources to address the problem. The billboard and flyers are a waste of time as research has shown. It sounds like you need more people experienced in the field to work on the best and evidenced practices. Starting a jail based treatment unit and then re-entry services. Truly random drug screens to include weekends. Assistance to help start up Oxford Recovery Homes. Churches were often helpful with first months rent. Getting NA and AA meetings in the jail and outside locations.
    With all the money out there for treatment, etc. you need experienced grant writers to secure more funding. I could go on because most of my career was as a HIDTA Officer so we worked closely with substance abuse therapists and treatment.

    Sunday, Jul 3 @ 11:56 am
  • tp

    Dantha OBX wrote:

    “and nothing changed”

    Amen, yes indeed and that should be the focus of the debate.

    Sunday, Jul 3 @ 6:03 pm
  • Nosey OBXer

    I wish just say no worked. Addiction is a mental health issue. I wish people really cared but they don’t until it happens to them. Be proactive not reactive. Affordable Care Act covers rehab and mental health. IMHO we need more mental health and rehab facilities, social workers, counselors, volunteers and stop criminalizing the addiction disease. But OBX only caters to tourists, No affordable local housing, No walk in facilities for troubled children or adults.
    Might as well throw that money in the ocean because billboards are not going to stop or curve the addiction problem.

    Monday, Jul 4 @ 10:18 am
  • tp

    Regina Myers posted:

    “Getting NA and AA meetings in the jail”

    Would the inmates be required to attend or would it be voluntary?

    Monday, Jul 4 @ 6:12 pm
  • Sandy Briggman

    Changing Tides Treatment Center in Kitty Hawk is helping a lot of people.

    Tuesday, Jul 5 @ 7:47 am
  • Travis

    I understand building and maintaining a treatment facility goes beyond the means afforded by the settlement. But I agree with what Regina says and would point out that the local jail is a sort of de facto treatment facility. I mean, who winds up spending time there? A lot of drug users, I would presume. I don’t know what the maximum stretch in the local jail is. But if you have someone in there for 30 or 60 days, you’ve got time to rehabilitate them. Unlike a voluntarily stretch in a treatment facility, they can’t just walk out.

    So you’ve got your facility, you’ve got your “patients” and now you need the staff to help them with their recovery. Obviously there has to be a commitment post-release to help continue with the recovery process. Something more than billboards, for sure.

    Tuesday, Jul 5 @ 10:06 am
  • Billsnc

    Lol Bob, you reading the same story? This isn’t some budget surplus, this is money received as part of a settlement…

    Tuesday, Jul 5 @ 12:17 pm
  • Lemonshirt

    How about funding funerals for those who die by accidental overdose?
    Wouldn’t that make for eye-catching billboard advertising. “Overdose on the OBX and your funeral is on us!”
    (I think that might fall under the HARM REDUCTION requirement. …at least it reduces financial harm to the families)

    Tuesday, Jul 5 @ 5:27 pm
  • tp

    Travis posted:

    “Unlike a voluntarily stretch in a treatment facility, they can’t just walk out.”

    AA and NA are 12-step programs which are religious. As such the government cannot coerce even a convicted prisoner to attend them.

    Tuesday, Jul 5 @ 8:50 pm
  • Travis

    DP: Good point. There are nondenominational/nonreligious treatment programs that would need to be offered as well. I expect they work even better.

    Friday, Jul 8 @ 1:57 pm