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Berks gives update on how its spending opioid settlement funds

More than $550,000 has been distributed to programs in Berks County that are helping people affected by the opioid crisis in some way.

The money is the first portion being doled out from the more than $16.3 million the county is set to receive over the next two decades under a historic settlement of a national lawsuit against four of the country’s largest pharmaceutical providers and manufacturers for their role in fueling the opioid crisis.

Those funds will be managed and distributed by the Council on Chemical Abuse. And on Tuesday morning, Stanley Papademetriou, former executive director of the council, gave the Berks commissioners an update on how that money is being spent.

Papademetriou, who was hired following his retirement to serve as a consultant on how these funds should be used, shared how the council has so far distributed the settlement money.

The following programs received funding:

• $300,000 was awarded to the Berks County Jail System to provide the drug Vivitrol to prison inmates three days before their release to allow participants to focus on immediate reentry needs without also having to struggle with physical addiction.

• $180,000 was used by the council to enhance the inpatient treatment resources.

• $53,381 was awarded to Berks Connections/Pretrial Services to fund a program that will help those in recovery find employment opportunities.

• $4,125 was given to Danny’s Ride, a nonprofit organization that provides free rides to recovery services for people living with substance use disorder.

• $11,377 was awarded to Easy Does It and Atonement Lutheran Church to expand local recovery support services.

• $10,000 was used by the council to bolster its Student Assistant Program that helps students who are struggling with substance use and mental health issues remain in school.

Papademetriou said the following are the guiding principles for figuring out how to spend the money:

• Addressing gaps in service.

• Enhancing and expanding current programs.

• Sustaining proven and effective services.

• Collaborating with community organizations.

All 67 counties in the state opted to join the agreement negotiated by then-state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and other state attorneys general with pharmaceutical providers Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, along with drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

It represented a resolution of thousands of lawsuits filed against the drug companies, who were accused of letting addictive drugs enter illegal channels and downplaying addiction risks in their marketing. The companies have not admitted any wrongdoing.

In all, the drug companies will pay $26 billion.

Pennsylvania’s counties will get part of the just over $1 billion that is headed to the state.

The amount each county will receive is based on metrics that measure the severity of the crisis: overdose deaths, rate of opioid use disorder hospitalizations, naloxone administrations and opioids dispensed.

How to request settlement funds

Organizations seeking settlement funds for programs related to opioid addiction are encouraged to reach out to the council.

Concept papers for proposed services can be submitted to

The council will review all submissions, ensuring the proposals fit within the parameters set by the settlement. Those that do will be reviewed by Berks County Chief Operations Officer Kevin Barnhardt to make sure the proposal has the support of county officials.

Source: Berkshire mont

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