Local leaders last week discussed how to use an influx of money coming from legal settlements to Texas County to battle opioid drug use. 

Scott Long, Texas County presiding commissioner, started the meeting by explaining that the county plans to receive approximately $500,000 from Johnson & Johnson and approximately $400,000 from Walgreens, CVS and Walmart in opioid settlements over the next two decades. The money would be used to treat, prevent and deter opioid use. The county could possibly receive money from a third settlement, but it is unclear at this point.

County commissioners asserted that the funds will be difficult to budget as they will be spread out and that they would like for others to help determine spending as it is not their area of expertise.

Offering advice to the commissioners included school leaders, hospital officials, county officeholders and health experts. Hospital leaders reported that Texas County is one of the few counties in the state that is not required to track or monitor prescriptions. TCMH plans to implement a system to do this that would cost approximately $6,000 a year, a small price to help save lives, said CEO Stace Holland.

Two ideas that persisted throughout the meeting were that mental health must be a large focus of the spending and that kids should receive more focus. Several leaders asserted that only helping adults would be fixing a current problem and not creating a permanent solution.

Despite wanting to avoid wasting the funds on administrative fees or hiring someone to help spend the funds, commissioners were advised that bringing in a content expert in opioid use could prove beneficial.

Marie Lasater, the county coroner, said that TCMH should update its drug screening for emerging drugs, and that she would be requesting opioid funding to help her office. A final point of thought during the meeting was how much – if any – of the funds should be spent on harm reduction. This includes things such as providing Narcan, sterile needles and safe disposal. Some say that this only encourages the use of drugs while others say that drug use will persist regardless, so safe methods should be provided.

Another meeting to discuss the use of funding is planned for June 30, with more local leaders in attendance.

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