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County commissioners consider how to spend opioid settlement money

Henderson County’s Board of Commissioners on Wednesday directed the county’s staff to come up with a plan for how the county will spend nearly $9 million it is scheduled to receive from an opioid settlement.

“We need to start figuring out where we want to go because the money is going to start coming in,” Jodi Grabowski, the behavioral health system coordinator for the county’s health department, told commissioners during their regular monthly meeting.
Commissioners voted unanimously to direct county staff to hire a consultant to organize or determine the cost of a drug diversion court and other uses for the rest of the settlement money. The county will use money from a grant not associated with the settlement to hire the consultant.
Henderson County will receive nearly $9 million over 18 years as the result of lawsuits filed around the country against pharmaceutical companies that fueled the opioid crisis. The money awarded to the county will amount to about $494,000 per year.
The state requires that the money be spent in specific and certain ways.
A task force made up of community members interested in the issue came up with four priorities for the money and four examples of the priorities.
The priorities include recovery support services, evidence-based addiction treatment, early intervention services and criminal justice diversion. Some examples of those priorities include peer support staff to help people navigating the system and address barriers to care, medical-assisted treatment, drug education programs for children and veterans and adult recovery court.
Commissioners asked Grabowski several questions about medical-assisted treatment.
“Who provides MAT? Does that come from the same people who caused the problem in the first place?” Commissioner Rebecca McCall asked. Commissioner Michael Edney questioned who would be the provider of MAT in the county and who provides it now.
Grabowski said people using MAT would need a prescription and that they would also need counseling and support.
“The program I’m advocating for, you have to keep doing these things to get your prescription,” she said.
Blue Ridge Health in the county is currently the main provider for MAT, but not the only one. Private doctors could also provide the service, she said.
After the discussion, commissioners directed County Manager John Mitchell to use funds from the Dogwood Health Trust to begin planning for how to best use the opioid money to address the possibilities recommended by the task force.
In July 2021, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced a historic $26 billion agreement that will help bring resources to communities harmed by the opioid epidemic. The agreement resolves litigation over the role of four companies in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic. The agreement also requires significant industry changes that will help prevent this type of crisis from ever happening again, according to a website dedicated to the state’s opioid settlements.
For more information about the settlements, visit