Indiana counties, cities receiving first tranche of funds from National Opioid Settlement

Indiana ranks #7 in the country for drug overdose deaths as of 2013

City and county officials in the area expect their first installment of the $26 billion opioid settlement in late October or early November.

The state’s share of the national opioid compensation amounts to more than half a billion dollars.

The comparison and the opioid epidemic were the topics of discussion at today’s 2022 Northern Indiana Opioid and Mental Health Summit.

Officials from the Indiana Attorney General’s office, county health departments, mental health and substance abuse providers such as the Bowen Center and regional hospital systems, local and county officials, prosecutors and judges were part of multiple panels. The event was held in New Haven, Indiana at the Orchid Reception Hall and was hosted by New Haven Mayor Steven McMichael.

Local officials say the big fight now is fentanyl, a drug 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin and found in almost every other drug. But prescription opioids were the bigger fight as of 1999, according to the CDC. States have taken steps to limit the pill mills that people turned up for opioid prescriptions, but drug overdoses are still rising or not changing.

Allen County had 68 drug overdose deaths in 2016. Last year there were 173, the highest number ever recorded.

According to Captain Kevin Hunter of the Fort Wayne Police Department, there have been 74 drug overdose deaths this year with 59 pending toxicology studies.

According to NiceRx figures, Indiana is ranked seventh when it comes to the top 10 states with the most drug overdose deaths. Between 2013 and 2020, more than 17,000 people died from drug overdoses in the state.

More than 932,000 people have died from drug overdoses since 1999, according to the CDC. Almost 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2020 were due to an opioid. Opioids are substances that work in the body’s nervous system or at certain receptors in the brain to reduce the intensity of pain.

A state official with the Indiana Attorney General’s office says it’s up to local communities how they spend the settlement money, which can be used for prevention, treatment and education.

Cory Voight, director of complex litigation for the attorney general’s office, said the distributions are based on a combination of metrics that include the number of opioid-related deaths, the amount of opioids entering communities and the number of people with substance use disorders within the communities.

“It should capture the severity of the damage in each community,” Voight said at the summit on Wednesday. “The Attorney General wants communities to do what they think is best for their communities. The people in their communities know best how to use these funds.

“The money is supposed to be used for opioid use disorders, but also for co-existing disorders, and co-existing disorders mean other drug use, mental health problems and other things like that,” Voight said.

This year, Allen County will receive approximately $141,000 out of a total of nearly $857,000 over seven years.

Fort Wayne will receive $247,000 out of an expected $1.5 million.

Huntington County, which is partnering with the city of Huntington, will receive $63,000 this year, but together it totals about $150,000.

Huntington County Commissioner Tom Wall believes his county could do more by receiving the full amount, or $336,000 in the first distribution.

Commissioners, the Huntington Department of Health and school officials are joining forces with the city of Huntington and law enforcement to jointly address the problem.

The money will be put into a community endowment fund that Wall would hopefully supplement with other donations, Wall said.

“A lot of commissioners and a lot of officials would like to see the state tie up all the opioid money and let us pay it out up front so we don’t have to wait seven years. $150,000 isn’t going to go a long way to get and implement the programs we need in our community,” Wall said.

“Our problem is now,” Wall said. “It started a long time ago.”

With fentanyl now the huge drug problem in the state, Wall said HD was no different.

“We have heard from the Huntington Sheriff’s Office and Police Department that we have had 14 drug overdose deaths this year alone. I’m told we’ve had between 33 and 34 overdoses bringing people back on narcan. Narcan works, but we need to get these people treated after they get Narcan, and they need somewhere to go. And that’s what we’re trying to do in Huntington County with our new facility, the O’Donnell Center.”

The O’Donnell Center has 30 to 35 beds with a further 40 available. Huntington works with Parkview Behavior Health in Allen County and the Bowen Center, a mental health provider with a facility in Huntington, which is currently “overwhelmed with what’s being sent to them,” Wall said.

“We need something for our inmates when they leave prison,” Wall explained. “When they leave prison they have no one to go to other than their drug dealer who put them in there in the first place. Your clothes don’t fit. You have nowhere to go. They don’t know how to get a job. We need someone to come in and help us with that, and the sheriff has a program to put that together.”

With the combined funds, “we’re going to have a group that’s really going to look at the programs that we need to run. We are very fortunate to have a team first go before the money gets here.”

US Congressman Jim Banks, appearing for today’s Allen County Reagan Bean Dinner, appeared briefly to support local communities’ efforts to combat the opioid crisis that has torn lives and families apart.

“In every northeastern Indiana community I visit, the drug epidemic is a hot topic. It’s so important that communities and families fight the fallout from drugs pouring into our country like never before, Banks said.

“What we need to recognize at the federal level is that fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans my age, working-age Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. Every day, 300 Americans die from fentanyl poisoning. We need to identify where it’s coming from – made in China and imported into the US from the southern Mexico-US border.”

“We’re not doing nearly enough to stop it,” Banks said. “We have to blame China for making it in the first place. We must declare war on the Mexican drug cartels. We need to secure the border and that would go a long way in stopping the tide in our country.”

He introduced a bill to increase penalties for those who manufacture fentanyl and attempt to market it to children, including rainbow and candy fentanyl.

A distribution Excel spreadsheet is available on the country’s website. Indiana counties, cities receiving first tranche of funds from National Opioid Settlement

Dais Johnston

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