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Funding received from a lawsuit settlement against the pharmaceutical industry will go towards assisting people in Washington County who struggle with opioid substance abuse.

The County will be paid over a period of 18 years to help alleviate aspects of the opioid crisis. $203,000 is expected in the first year and $97,000 in the second year. The funding should go up after the second year, County Administrator Jeff Massey said during a discussion on the funding and plans to use it during a March 14 Board of County Commissioners meeting. The amount will gradually decrease over the years. 

County EMS and fire department services should see benefits from the funding, according to Massey. County EMS Director Randy Truette spoke about the plan going forward during the meeting.

“The money is going to afford us the ability to help respond and, hopefully, get people who have an opioid use disorder and even with mental health problems in contact with the right people such as PanCare, different ones like that,” Truette said. “I’ve talked to (Washington County Fire Coordinator Justin Leach) and get his fire departments to start responding to unresponsive overdoses and administering Narcan to reverse that, hopefully save lives.”

A community outreach program is also being established to follow up with people who overdose and help get them long-term care.

“This initial payment is going to be mostly for capital stuff to get the things in place we need,” Truette said. “After that, it will probably be to fund a position to help carry this through.”

The state and federal government will probably have money to address the issue since the opioid crisis is a huge problem, Truette said. The funding comes from a settlement Florida and other states reached with pharmaceutical companies. 

In talking with other officials across the state, they have seen reduction in ER visits for overdoses and overall success.

“We can’t expect huge numbers out of this but if we can get one person into rehab and get them the help we need and get them out that lifestyles, that’s a success in my opinion,” Truette said.

The funding will also include public education, including officials going into public schools, holding community events, and providing families of addicts with resources and education.

Programs will be put in place at the jail. 

Massey said the County has to be “mindful of anything we’re plugging in that needs to be done next year” when it comes to the annual available funding.