NCACC Board of Directors meets to discuss opioid settlement funds

Health

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – “Having those types of resources is a game changer.”

In a weekend meeting, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners said $850 million could be coming to the state in order to support efforts in the ongoing opioid addiction battle.

“That will allow local governments to really have impacts on people’s lives that need it the most as immediately as they can in terms of providing treatment,” said Kevin Leonard.

In total, nearly 3,000 national lawsuits were filed against several pharmaceutical companies. The lawsuits targeted how these companies marketed, promoted, manufactured and distributed these drugs. Negotiations are pending but, in the meantime, states are creating plans on how they’d spend settlement money to help tackle the crisis.

“To give them alternatives to get off these opioids, to get off of heroin and other drugs that opioids have sort of led them to. It’s just going to be we hope, transformational,” said Kevin Leonard, North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, executive director. “The funds that would be coming to North Carolina as a result of this settlement will be going directly to the localities, so counties and cities. Most appropriately, put these resources to work as fast as possible at the local level.”

Once, a settlement is reached on the national level, then the state level agreements will come into play. Officials said $850 million would be distributed over 18 years. So far, 36 counties and 10 municipalities across North Carolina have already signed on to the agreement. More counties have the agreement on their agendas in the coming weeks.

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) Board of Directors met in person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Board members were also able to join the meeting virtually.

The Board discussed a range of topics including the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the State of North Carolina and local governments on proceeds related to the settlement of national opioid litigation, NCACC President Ronnie Smith’s Resilience Initiative to address local food insecurity and NCACC’s newly redesigned website. NCACC’s Government Relations staff also briefed the Board on state and federal issues of importance to counties.

“Our Board meeting felt like a long-awaited family reunion, and everyone was thrilled to be back together again after fifteen months of being apart. It was also an incredibly productive meeting. We discussed several major issues including how counties can maximize resources to fight the opioid epidemic and local strategies counties can pursue to address food insecurity,” said Smith.

The Board received an update on local government adoption of a historic agreement, which would direct national opioid settlement funds as follows:

  • 15 percent to the state, which the General Assembly would appropriate to address the epidemic.
  • 80 percent to local governments, including all 100 counties and 17 municipalities.
  • An additional five percent to an incentive fund to encourage counties and large- and medium-size municipalities to sign on to the agreement.

The agreement, announced in April by NCACC and Attorney General Josh Stein, also known as the “NC MOA” governs how North Carolina would use the proceeds of any future national settlement or bankruptcy resolution with drug distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma. More information about the NC MOA is available here.

All 100 counties, and all large and medium-sized municipalities need to sign onto the NC MOA and those national settlement agreements for North Carolina to receive the maximum resources. These potential settlements and resolutions could bring as much as $850 million to North Carolina over an 18-year period to support state and local efforts to address the epidemic.  Since the NC MOA was announced, 36 counties and ten municipalities have passed resolutions to approve it. Additional counties will consider the NC MOA in the coming weeks.

The Board also discussed NCACC President Ronnie Smith’s year-long “Resilience” initiative to develop local strategies to tackle food insecurity. June 8, 2021, the Resilience Task Force released a report to guide local planning to improve reliable access to quality, affordable food. The report outlines three specific areas counties could pursue to enhance their local response to food insecurity, which include 1) expanding collaborative partnerships, 2) addressing transportation needs, and 3) leveraging county assets through cold storage and shared facility use.

The report includes specific examples of local programs in each of these three areas, along with data resources, funding opportunities, and legislative recommendations for state and federal policymakers to strengthen food system resiliency. To date, nearly a quarter of North Carolina counties have approved resolutions supporting the Food Resilience Initiative, committing to exploring ways to strengthen food security in their communities.

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