HEALTH CARE

State board allocates nearly $14 million for addiction prevention

State officials charged with allocating $600 million from opioid settlement lawsuits decided in its latest round of funding to focus on prevention.

At its May meeting, the Opioid Settlement Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Board approved a proposal by the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission to spend $13.7 million on increasing the number of professionals working to prevent addiction, an area considered crucial to addressing the drug crisis that’s fueled fatal overdoses from fentanyl.

Fentanyl overdoses have spiked in recent years, especially in Oregon’s largest county. The Multnomah County Health Department released a report on Tuesday that shows fentanyl overdose deaths in the county rising from an average of two a month in 2018 to nearly 36 deaths a month in 2023, with nearly 870 dying between 2018 and 2023.

This latest round of opioid settlement allocations could help reverse that trend. The commission said the funding would decrease substance use and overdoses, improve the mental health and social well-being of Oregonians and make residents and communities more resilient. 

The money will be dedicated to three areas:

  • $9.5 million will go to counties to fund prevention workforces and evidence-based prevention programs.
  • Nearly $3.8 million will be allocated to local organizations and coalitions to increase the number of primary prevention efforts in communities that have been hardest hit by addiction and overdoses.
  • $450,000 to a professional group, the Oregon Coalition for Prevention Professionals, which was created last year, to train and certify up to 100 new certified prevention specialists over two years. 

The proposal said those certifications would help the state “solidify the foundation” for a pipeline of trained professionals in prevention.

This is the fourth allocation by the 18-member board, which includes a wide array of officials and experts, including from the governor’s office, Department of Justice, Oregon Health Authority, Department of Human Services, cities, counties, Legislature, law enforcement, mental health sector and the courts.

The board’s co-chair, Annaliese Dolph, who is also director of the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, said in a statement that the allocation sets an example by attacking the problem upstream.

“We cannot treat our way out of the substance use disorder crisis,” Dolph said. “We must also prevent substance use disorders from occurring in the first place.”

The money is part of nearly $90 million to be deposited into the state’s opioid settlement fund through the end of the current biennium, which ends in June 2025. Overall, Oregon is expected to get nearly $600 million over the next 18 years from pharmaceutical manufacturers and other companies, including Walgreens. CVS and Walmart, stemming from the opioid prescription pill crisis. 

The crisis shook Oregon and other states starting in the late 1990s, when pharmaceutical companies pushed prescription opioids, claiming they were not addictive. That was far from true, and millions of Americans ended up addicted. Legal use led to illicit use in some cases, but now the problem is illicit fentanyl use.

The settlements give states fairly wide leeway on how they spend the money, with at least 70% for “opioid remediation efforts,” which is widely defined as “care, treatment and other programs.” In Oregon, funds are divided between 45% for the state and 55% for local jurisdictions.  

In the current round of Oregon funding, the state is dividing about two-fifths of the money between primary prevention efforts and preventing overdoses and harm reduction. Another two-fifths will be divided between treatment and recovery.

In previous meetings, the board allocated:

  • $26.7 million to the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon.
  • $13 million to the Save Lives Oregon Harm Reduction Clearinghouse to distribute naloxone and other life-saving supplies to qualified entities.
  • $4 million to develop a state system for collecting, analyzing and publishing data about the availability and efficacy of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery 

More information

To learn more about the fund, visit oregon.gov/opioidsettlement.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Lynne Terry for questions: [email protected]. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Send an email to Salem Reporter’s news team: [email protected].

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

Tags: