Commissioners further discuss opioid settlement funds


The Jackson County Commissioners continued to discuss the distribution of the county’s share of funds from the $26 billion nationwide opioid settlement earlier this week.

That settlement came after Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson were sued by numerous states and local governments related to their roles in the manufacturing and distribution of opioids around the country.

Jackson County is set to receive a total of $1,666,863.76. Of those funds, $396,864 will be unrestricted, while the majority, $1,269,999.59, are abatement funds and come with spending restrictions.

According to the office of Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, approved uses for abatement funds include things such as treatment programs for individuals suffering from opioid use disorder, supporting those in treatment and recovery and training and education for first responders.

The first payment received by Jackson County will be in the amount of $335,539.51, with $269,980.68 as the abatement share. It will be distributed to the county today, said Zachary Jackson, the state’s budget director.

“Local units of government should receive ACH notifications today, and distributions will be in their checking accounts tomorrow,” Jackson said in an email Thursday afternoon.

From 2023 until 2038, Jackson County will receive an annual payment of $82,076.20 from the settlement, including $57,543.34 of abatement funds.

Commissioners Drew Markel and Matt Reedy discussed some of their ideal uses for the funds during the commissioners’ only meeting of the month on Tuesday. They typically meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

Markel said his belief is the funds should primarily be used to finance treatment programs.

“I want the main focus to be treatment. This money is not made to start a 10-employee recovery office. And 75% of the funds go to that. I know we’ve got centers down here, we’ve got different people in the crowd, but they are already doing this,” Markel said. “So how do we actually funnel this money back to treatment and not just to build more and more and more groups of people who try to pull the funds out.”

Reedy recommended youth prevention programs as another potential use along with the previously mentioned spending on treatment measures.

“We’ve got the D.A.R.E. program, and that gets kids at one age, but that doesn’t really do much more than that, so it would be nice to get a little prevention model in there as well as treatment,” Reedy said.

Reedy also mentioned job placement and housing programs as other potential avenues for spending down the funds in the future.

Moving forward, a board will be set up to help decide the best uses for the funds. The board will consist of one county commissioner, who commissioners voted Tuesday to be Reedy, a county council member, a Seymour City Council member and a representative of Schneck Medical Center.

J.L. Brewer, director of Jackson-Jennings Community Corrections, also spoke about the issue during the meeting, asking that the soon-to-be board collaborate on efforts with his department as well as other local stakeholders.

“I’m concerned that you’re going to have too much trouble having people working on a problem over here and they don’t know that these other people are working on the same problem and then nobody’s really engaging and working together. Money gets spent, but problems don’t get addressed,” Brewer said. “My only concern is making sure that there’s collaboration there between all of the parties.”

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