The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved four initiatives to receive the first batch of funding from the county’s share of national Opioid Settlement Funds at its April 18 business meeting. The Opioid Advisory Committee met March 21 and recommended the projects to receive funds.
Most of the approved funding will be used to continue grant-funded services that were set to expire June 30, 2023, said Health Director Quintana Stewart.
The board authorized $164,862 to continue The Lantern Project in FY 2023-24. Funds will pay for Reentry Coordinator and Diversion Coordinator positions currently housed in the Criminal Justice Resource Department.
The Lantern Project is funded for FY 2022-23 by a grant from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. It is a collaboration between the Criminal Justice Resource Department (CJRD) and Freedom House Recovery Center, said CJRD Director Caitlin Fenhagen (pictured).
The program supports justice-impacted individuals with substance use disorder through evidence-based strategies, interventions and programming that reduces their vulnerability to recidivism, overdose, death and COVID-19 infection. The Lantern Project provides critical participant needs for basic supplies like medication, transportation, cell phones and mental health services.
The Freedom House received $122,188 to continue supporting a Licensed Clinician and Peer Support Specialist. The positions will connect individuals released from the Orange County Detention Center to treatment and community resources to help their recovery and reduce recidivism.
NC FIT, a comprehensive reentry program that focuses on unmet health needs for people released from incarceration, received $70,000 for FY 2023-24. The program received grant funding to hire a Community Health Worker position in the Orange County Health Department for FY 2022-23. This position focuses on assisting inmates released from the detention center with a diagnosis of Opioid Use Disorder.
“There is some urgency to continue those programs,” said Orange County Commissioner Sally Greene, who served on a statewide committee that developed a plan for how the state would distribute its share of the settlement. “I wanted to say how grateful I am for all the work (the committee and staff) are doing to get this off to a very good and responsible, responsive process with the community.”
The projects were provided funding for FY 2023-24 and FY 2024-25, with a five percent increase in the base amount for the second year.
In addition, the Board of County Commissioners approved $14,500 to order additional narcan/naloxone and fentanyl testing strips for community vending machines and county first responders for 2023-24.
In 2018, the Orange County Board of Commissioners authorized the county to participate in national litigation related to the opioid epidemic. Those efforts led to a historic $26 billion agreement with pharmaceutical companies that will bring desperately needed relief to communities impacted by opioids.
Orange County has received four payments from two different settlements totaling $881,554. The projects approved by the BOCC will utilize $371,550 in FY 2023-24 and approximately $374,902 in FY 2024-25.
Orange County is expected to receive $6,799,780 through 2040, paid in annual installments, from the National Distributors/Janssen settlement. In addition, Orange County will also receive funds from the National Opioid Abatement Trust II.
The Orange County Opioid Advisory Committee will advise the BOCC on how to utilize the county’s share of national opioid settlement funds.