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County will get $9 million to fight substance abuse

Henderson County will receive $8.9 million for substance abuse programs from the settlement of lawsuits against drug makers that produced and marketed highly addictive painkillers.

Henderson County Board of Commissioners Chair Bill Lapsley announced the grant during the regular meeting of the board on Monday night and reported that an advisory committee on drug-abuse prevention and treatment had set priorities for spending it.
Henderson County is in better shape than most to move quickly because it had formed a Substance Abuse Task Force to study the problem and recommend solutions. The county also received a Dogwood Health Trust grant for planning.
The advisory board discussed 12 options before narrowing the categories to four. The county will receive the first two payments this year, totaling $1,093,630, and the remainder over an 18-year period to spend on substance abuse prevention and treatment.
“So it's unfortunate from one perspective that we've had major problems across this country that we've had to deal with,” Lapsley said. “This certainly will help. I don't know that it's, as somebody said to me, that it's just compensation for all the people that have been impacted by prescription opioids, but be that as it may, this is the amount of money that Henderson County's going to get.”
Here are the four categories the task force recommended receive funding:
• Early intervention program, including services for children and teenagers with substance abuse issues and training for parents, families, social workers, school staff and others. “That’s basically what HopeRX is doing,” Lapsley said. “So, you know, again, as a county, I'm proud that we're doing some of these things already.”

• Criminal justice diversion programs, including pre-arrest, post-arrest and pre-trial programs connecting drug crime suspects to treatment programs. “This is something that the group has a strong interest in, and the sheriff has a strong interest in this,” Lapsley said. “Apparently they're doing this in a bigger way in Buncombe County that seems to be working well.”
• Recovery support services that include evidence-based peer support and care navigators. “While we're doing a little bit of that now, I think the group feels like there we can expand and with a little more money we can probably do a better job," Lapsley said. "The second part under this is housing support for people in treatment or recovery. This is kind of a new area that the group would really like to see the county explore in more detail and I think they feel like it could really be a big, big help to those stuck in this group.”
• Evidence-based addiction treatment, including opioid treatment programs through federal health agencies like Blue Ridge Health, treatment as part of the criminal justice system and evidence-based treatment programs that meet national standards.
The next steps, Lapsley said, would be to invite various agencies, nonprofits and providers to propose programs that would meet the goals.
“We see now what the money is,” he said. “It seemed to me that the next thing might be for this (substance abuse) group to meet one more time and for this board to more or less advise the nonprofits and the sheriff and the court system and others that have a finger in any one of these, for us to go to them and say, ‘All right, this is the amount of money we got. These are the programs that y'all recommended.'”
Commissioners will review proposals the stakeholders present and decide how to appropriate the money. The $9 million in funding over 18 years is Henderson County's share of $750 million North Carolina will receive from the $26 billion settlement of a multi-state opioid lawsuit.