Pa. Share of massive opioid settlement will pay for treatment, not ‘potholes’, Shapiro insists


It has a lot in common with the monumental Tobacco Regulations, which sent billions to every state, meant to be spent to prevent and treat the ills of smoking. Yet much of it went to purposes such as road repairs.

With Pennsylvania set to receive about $1.1 billion from a recently signed massive deal involving an opioid manufacturer and distributors, State’s Attorney Josh Shapiro sat down with county officials on Monday. from Dauphin and promised that this time would be different, with almost all of the money going to drug prevention and treatment.

Shapiro said this will be accomplished by strict rules on what the money can be spent on, and funneling the vast majority – 85% – to counties, which are largely responsible for funding and overseeing programs. which he says are “where the rubber meets the road” in terms of people in need being able to find suitable programs.

He further pointed out the existence of a “trust” which will include people appointed by the governor and the leaders of the state legislature, and which will be responsible for distributing the money and ensuring that it is is spent correctly.

Shapiro spoke at an event where Dauphin County elected officials and addiction treatment professionals presented plans for using the settlement money finalized earlier this year. The settlement will bring $131 million to Pennsylvania this year, including $13.4 million to Dauphin County.

Shapiro, who was a leader of a national group of attorneys general that brokered the settlement, called it a “turning point” in the opioid crisis that he says is killing 15 Pennsylvanians a day.

“Today marks the day that the companies that have fueled this crisis, that have sold narcotics for profit and flooded our neighborhoods with addictive pills…that they pay and targeted communities can fight back with new resources” , did he declare.

Dauphin County officials said they are accepting grant applications from local organizations interested in providing treatment, prevention, housing and other supports for people trying to recover from addiction.

Dale Klatzker, CEO of Gaudenzia, a leading addiction treatment provider, said a significant barrier to treatment involves a shortage of addiction treatment professions, saying Pennsylvania has only 2,487 certified addiction counselors to serving approximately 700,000 people with addictions.

Cheryl Dondero, also from Gaudenzia, described the need for better programs to allow people struggling with addiction to avoid the criminal justice system.

“We need to keep our young people out of the criminal justice system to stop the revolving door that almost always happens once you get that first prison sentence,” said Dondero, who further said these negative impacts trickle down from disproportionately on low-income people and minorities. .

Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo, whose office will receive $2 million in settlement money this year, agreed, promising to spend money on programs and staff dedicated to recognizing people whose crimes stem from substance abuse and directing them to treatment.

In some cases, Chardo said, “we will waive charges altogether for those who are struggling with addiction and are in treatment, but we will have a follow-up mechanism to make sure they follow through.”

Dauphin County officials cited barriers to treatment, including inpatient bed shortages and a dearth of transportation options for people who need ongoing treatment and support.

County Commissioner George Hartwick III said the county will work with local health systems and colleges to inventory the level of treatment services and identify gaps. He said the new settlement money will enable “sustainable programs that will last well beyond this board of commissioners and well beyond the settlement.”

Shapiro is also the Democratic candidate for governor, against Republican Doug Mastriano.

He said 5,224 people in Pennsylvania died of drug overdoses last year.

The toll for 2022 is similar to 2017, the year Pennsylvania declared an overdose emergency and stepped up a massive effort that saw several years of declines in overdose deaths. However, the wave of overdoses increased again during the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted treatment programs and led to isolation that increased the vulnerability of many people.

Shapiro said one of the main contributors to the upturn is the rise of fentanyl, a cheap synthetic opioid that is much more potent than heroin and is now added to many drugs, with the end user often unaware of its Powerful.

He said the settlement money will provide “more education, more training, more services. We can have an impact and save lives in the future. We know this because we all collectively understand that addiction is a disease, not a crime, and should be treated as such.

People who need help dealing with substance abuse can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs at 1-800-662-4357.


Hundreds proudly remember loved ones lost to drug overdose, vow to unite and force change


Comments are closed.