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Pennsylvania counties have received their first payments from prescription drug companies

With opioid settlement money in hand, midstate counties are getting ready to take grant applications.

  • Brett Sholtis
The opioid epidemic continues to affect families across Pennsylvania.

Stock photo

The opioid epidemic continues to affect families across Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania counties have received their first payments from a $26 billion multistate settlement with Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson — companies that made or distributed some of the prescription drugs that fueled the deadly opioid addiction crisis.

Pennsylvania will receive $1 billion of that money over 18 years, part of a deal negotiated by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and other attorneys general.

The deal includes rules about how the money must be spent. For example, it can be used to buy the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone, provide medication-assisted treatment and set up prevention programs.

However, counties will have direct oversight of 70% of the money in the settlement — leaving it up to them to decide who ultimately gets it.

In Dauphin County, the plan is to finance programs with groups that are willing to bring their own resources to the table, said County Commissioner George Hartwick. That will ensure people struggling with addiction get help for years to come.

“It’s got to be something that leverages other money, it’s sustainable and it has to adhere to the terms of the settlement agreement,” Hartwick said after a news conference at Gaudenzia Common Ground, a residential substance use and mental health treatment center.

Gaudenzia and other groups that provide addiction services can apply for grant funding on Oct. 1, Hartwick said. The county has received $458,000 so far and expects to have $1.3 million on hand by the end of the year.

The plan is to review grant applications in late 2022 and distribute about $1.3 million by early next year, Hartwick said.

Gaudenzia President Dale Klatzker said he hopes the funds can increase the number of trained counselors. Right now Pennsylvania has about 2,500 such workers, while there are more than 700,000 people in the commonwealth living with addiction.

“This money can turn the tide of overdose deaths and provide more access to the treatment [that is] necessary,” Klatzker said.

In York County, commissioners plan to use a grant application process they first developed when deciding how to allocate federal CARES funding during the COVID-19 pandemic, said President Commissioner Julie Wheeler.

She said a range of groups will be eligible, including area health systems like WellSpan and UPMC and substance abuse treatment providers such as TrueNorth Wellness Services.

The county has $883,556 on hand and expects to have $2 million by the end of year. Wheeler said applications will open in “early fall.”

“We want to make sure there’s a process in place that’s fair and equitable,” Wheeler said. “We have a group of subject matter experts to provide some guidance.”

 

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