City News

Salem will continue youth, homeless outreach programs using opioid settlement money 

The city of Salem will use around about $650,000 in opioid settlement money to avoid cutting services for addressing youth outreach and homelessness. 

The money flows from a national settlement with major corporations found culpable for the opioid epidemic. Settlement payments, expected to continue flowing at least through 2039, come from major companies like Walgreens, CVS, and Teva, city officials said in a staff report

The city estimates getting between $245,677 and $650,518 per year at least for the next 15 years. The city has about $2.5 million on hand already after it opted in along with the state and other local jurisdictions to receive a percentage of the settlement money. That money will be used to sustain programs directed at alleviating the effects of opioids over time. 

Josh Eggleston, the city’s chief financial officer, said the city will use settlement money to temporarily expand programs that will be refocused to address opioid addiction in the community. 

More specifically, the settlement dollars will allow the city to continue funding the Salem Housing Authority’s special projects outreach team for another year. The housing agency will hire two new employees for the team who will focus on opioid mitigation. The outreach team goes to homeless camps to help people navigate the system to get into stable housing, and provides rapid rehousing for people living on the streets. 

Funding for the housing authority program expires next year and the agency is seeking other money to keep it going. Meantime opioid settlement money will be used to continue funding two police officers with the homeless services team through 2030, according to the city. While the settlement money helps the city pay for much needed services, it falls short of repairing the damage done from opioid addiction. 

“Opioids have had a pretty large impact on the police department and the fire department, so I still don’t think the dollars offset the impacts, but it certainly will help to maintain programs for those going forward,” Eggleston said. “I am interested to see how many more settlements come, and if we can stand up more programs if there are more dollars.” 

The settlement money will also pay for a youth and young adult community coordinator who will be responsible for reaching out to youth to prevent substance use and to build awareness with parents, schools and the community. 

This position is through the city’s Community Services Department and will cost $189,340 in the next budget year, which starts July 1.

The program was expected to expire this year, but the opioid settlement money allowed the city to avoid making that cut, Eggleston said. He said the program will be adjusted based on the stipulations on the settlement funds. 

“It will be different, just with the requirements for the opioid settlement,” Eggleston said, “Some of the things that position does are going to have to change a little bit to have more of the opioid mitigation focus instead of general youth development.” 

Three youth services programs currently funded by the city’s general fund will end when the opioid settlement funding kicks in, according to the city report. Those programs include the One Thousand Soles, which collects shoes for local youth. Also getting the chop include the Backbone youth homelessness committee partnership, a program designed to prevent youth homelessness, and certain city initiatives such as an annual youth conference, community violence reduction, talent recruitment, and workforce development initiatives. 

The two new outreach coordinators at the housing authority will focus on people experiencing homelessness who are impacted by opioids. 

Gretchen Bennett, the city’s homelessness liaison and human rights manager, explained the housing authority program will only get one year of opioid settlement funding. 

“They are working very diligently toward securing alternative grant resources for those positions, and we are looking for a boost in that area just in the short term to help us with some efforts,” Bennett said.

Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 503-335-7790.

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Joe Siess is a reporter for Salem Reporter. Joe joined Salem Reporter in 2024 and primarily covers city and county government but loves surprises. Joe previously reported for the Redmond Spokesman, the Bulletin in Bend, Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born in Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail officially starts, and grew up in the Kansas City area.

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