CHARLESTON, W.V. (WVNS) – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Wednesday, February 16, 2022, that his office has reached an agreement with representatives from WV’s cities and counties about how to allocate any settlement funds received in suits against opioid makers, distributors and any others involved.
The agreement, called a memorandum of understanding (MOU), calls for the creation of a private, nonstock, nonprofit foundation for the purposes of distributing settlement or judgment funds awarded from litigation for abatement purposes.
Morrisey was joined at a Wednesday press conference by many county and city officials from across West Virginia. All counsel involved have agreed to recommend approval of this agreement to their clients. The Attorney General will also seek legislative support for this initiative.
“The communities of our state have been ravaged by the wrongdoing of those within the pharmaceutical supply chain. With this MOU, West Virginia has dramatically improved its ability to speak with a united voice and take actions to protect all the citizens of our state from this epidemic. Through our efforts, West Virginia is positioning itself to receive more opioid settlement dollars for our citizens to address this epidemic than virtually any other state in the nation. I’ve always said that West Virginians must be put first in any lawsuit related to opioids, and they will. We are honoring our promises to West Virginia. This agreement is also a huge win for every county and city in West Virginia. We will be able to meaningfully address the regional jail fee problem and help government entities that are already heavily investing in addressing the drug problem,”Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
The foundation will be managed by a board of 11 members, five of whom will be state appointees, subject to confirmation by the Senate. To represent the interests of local governments, the MOU establishes six regions, and one member will be chosen from each of those regions.
An executive director will run the day-to-day operations of the foundation. This person may attend all meetings but will only vote on matters before the board in the event of a tie.
As the central organization dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis throughout the state, the foundation will receive 72.5 percent of the settlement or judgment, 24.5 percent of settlement and judgment dollars will be allocated to local governments and 3 percent will be held in escrow by the state.
This allocation maximizes the amount of money that will be available for an opioid abatement fund and will distribute money throughout six regions in the state. This distribution will allow the money to help people and fund projects most in need.
Locally, certified peer recovery support specialist and business development representative with Harmony Ridge Recovery Center, Dave Taylor said the transparency of using settlement dollars to fight the crisis and recognizing the needs of different regions is a huge step in fighting the epidemic head-on.
“I’m always leary,” Taylor said. “Like oh, that money is going to go into roads or go into some other project. So, the fact that this is earmarked for recovery and for treatment, I think that’s a huge step in the right direction.”
He said the recognition by the state is helping to break the stigma of the strangleholds of addiction and mental health in an area opioids have ravaged for decades.
“No one ever wakes up in the morning and says, ‘You know what I want to be an addict today,'” Taylor added. “Nobody says, ‘I want my life to be ruled by drugs and alcohol from now on.'”
The attorney general set an aggressive deadline for this new program to be accepted before the state’s next opioid lawsuit in early April.