East Tenn. Counties receive opioid settlement funds

Rural communities hope funds can reverse decades of damage done by opioids.
Rural communities hope funds can reverse decades of damage done by opioids.
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT
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ONEIDA, Tenn. (WVLT) - Millions of dollars from a federal settlement with a maker of opioids is being paid directly to Tennessee counties.

The money comes from a settlement with Janssen/J&J.

“What we see now is Tennessee, as a state, learning from our past errors and directing these funds directly into prevention, treatment, recovery and remediation of opioids,” said Stephanie Strutner, CEO of Prevention Alliance of Tennessee.

The opioid epidemic hit rural areas especially hard.

“We work closely with the school systems, and we’re seeing as everybody knows, grandparents raising grandkids, a lot of foster care programs that are raising kids, parents that are just struggling with this true health epidemic,” said Trent Coffey, executive director of Schools Together Allowing No Drugs, or STAND Coalition in Scott County.

There are special challenges in mitigating drug abuse in rural areas, Coffey said.

“Those resources that we do have are at capacity. Therefore, to get people that need to go to Knoxville and things to receive those services. Then, they have those challenges and barriers such as transportation and funding to get those patients there,” said Kelly Chitwood.

Chitwood serves as Scott County’s 5th district commissioner and principal at Oneida Middle School.

The Tennessee Opioid Abatement Council has certain guidelines counties have to follow for spending this money. Coffey is hopeful those funds will be used effectively and will go a long way in saving lives.

“A lot of the services that we have are already taken up by people that have already had consequences. What we can do with this money is expand those services and try to take care of them before they have consequence,” said Coffey.

Counties can opt in to receive funds from another settlement against Walmart, CVS and Walgreens. Resolutions to receive those funds must be passed by April 18.