Commissioners allocate opioid case settlement funds

At their Nov. 28 meeting, the Clarion County commissioners signed a contract with the Armstrong, Indiana and Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission to administer the funds from the Opioid Settlement Funds on behalf of the county.

Kami Anderson, the Executive Director of the commission told the commissioners that the amount Clarion County will receive has increased from $65,725 to $135, 171 in the first year. Anderson said Clarion will receive a total of $1 million guaranteed but that the money is “front loaded” making the payout larger in the first few years of the settlement.

Anderson noted that Armstrong County receives between $5000 to $600,000 and Indiana County between $600,000 to $700,000 in the first year. She said the payments were based on population.

She said the settlement amount changed as other lawsuits were settled. The other suits filed by the federal Department of Justice were against marketing firms and pharmaceutical companies.

Anderson also explained how the commission would use the payments coming into the county. She said a payment would be made to emergency medical services agencies that transported a patient who was overdosed. If the patient contacts the commission for help, the EMS provider will receive additional compensation.

Commissioner Ed Heasley, who serves on the county’s EMS board, said that the payment was helpful but not close to what is needed to salvage the EMS providers.

Anderson said that when an overdose patient requests counseling at the hospital 93 percent to go for treatment.

Another use of the settlement money will be for inmates in jail on drug charges, She said the recovery services at the Clarion County Jail would include the hiring of a facilitator who would assist the inmate with re-entry into society. The inmate might apply for help with housing, employment, consultation with a doctor and legal aid. She said the facilitator was in place in Armstrong and Indiana counties.

Anderson said the funds could be used to aid children at risk.

A major part of the plan is the distribution of Narcan kits. The kits are designed to be used in an overdose situation. “Sometimes it takes more than one Narcan kit to bring someone back,” she said.

In January the commission will be re-locating to the 800 Center in Clarion.

The commissioners expressed concern over the status of the county’s retirement system. There are 180 county employees paying into the system and 204 retirees taking a pension.

“In two or three years we have dropped 24 employees,” said Commissioner Ted Tharan. “It’s dropping fast.

A total of $270,200 will be distributed on Dec. 1 and the contribution to the fund was $51,255 in October. The retirement fund is healthy with a balance of $24,942,775 as of Oct. 31.

The commissioners also unanimously approved a motion authorizing the new chairman, Commissioner Wayne Brosius, to be the authorized signatory on county documents.