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Attorney General Josh Stein on North Carolina’s share of opioid settlement

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 8:02 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As the country sees a record number of overdose deaths, there is one bright spot in the ongoing opioid crisis.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced a $26 billion agreement with several major opioid distributors on Wednesday. Stein led the negotiations along with several other attorneys general across the country.

North Carolina’s share of that settlement money is $750 million. Of that, 15% will go directly to the state, “which the General Assembly would appropriate to address the epidemic,” a release said. Eighty-percent of of the $750 million will be split accordingly between all the counties and municipalities in the state. How much money local governments receive depends on the harm done relative to the population.

Attorney General Stein said that all of southeastern North Carolina has been affected by the opioid crisis, but New Hanover County, especially, could see a lot of money coming its way.

“New Hanover County is one of the hardest hit parts of North Carolina and so the consequences is your leaders are pretty well advanced in developing effective strategies to deal with the crisis. What we hope this settlement does is give them the resources they need to bolster their efforts,” Stein said. “District Attorney David, the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff McMahon — everybody’s pushing to try to deal with the crisis in an effective way.”

Regardless of where this money goes, it has to be used to address the opioid crisis. This includes things like drug treatment, recovery services or harm reduction.

“How the counties choose to use it, whether it’s to hire an extra EMT person who does post overdose responses to visit people after they’ve overdosed or to hire a needle exchange person or to give a grant to a local treatment facility — those decisions can be made at the grassroots level,” Stein said.

That’s where a place like Coastal Horizons comes into play. It’s the largest private nonprofit human service organization in the region, and provides services for people dealing with addiction, among other things.

Coastal Horizons has several evidence-based programs that could be scaled to reach more people if they received some of these settlement dollars.

“Josh Stein is taking a better, more laser-focused approach to saying lets get this money into evidence-based treatment and that’s exactly what Coastal is going to be saying as well,” said Ryan Estes, treatment operations director. “We know that we have the ability to serve more individuals and that if we can knock down just a few more barriers we’re going to reach so many more lives.”

For example, Coastal Horizons has a quick response team that has saved almost 500 lives in the last several years, according to Estes. Estes said they believe they would be able to reach even more people with potential settlement money.

It could be some time before this money gets rolled out. Stein said first all the states have to sign onto this agreement, which North Carolina already has. This could take several weeks. Then it goes out to all the local jurisdictions.

Over 50 counties in North Carolina, including here in southeastern North Carolina, have passed resolutions indicating they are on board.

For those who have not signed resolutions, “An additional five percent to an incentive fund to encourage counties and large- and medium-size municipalities to sign on to the agreement,” a release from Stein’s office said.

Local governments will have to report back to Stein’s office not only where these funds go, but the benefit of that money.

“Having accountability on these funds is absolutely critical and so there’s going to have to be a report by local governments of how they use the money and what was the benefit or effect of that money,” Stein said. “We want the public to have absolute confidence that these funds are being used in the right way and are making a difference.”

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