Cuyahoga, Summit Counties To Spend Opioid Settlements On Drug Treatment

Cuyahoga County officials displayed this casket shaped like a pill bottle at their news conference announcing opioid settlement spending plans.
Cuyahoga County officials displayed a casket shaped like a pill bottle at their news conference announcing opioid settlement spending plans. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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Cuyahoga and Summit County leaders say they plan to spend the tens of millions already awarded in opioid settlements on drug treatment and prevention programs.

Both counties released plans for the settlement money Thursday, less than two weeks before they both take their claims against the drug industry to trial in federal court in Cleveland. The two counties will be the first among thousands of plaintiffs to make their case before a jury in the massive case.

Cuyahoga County’s $23.1 million plan includes expanded residential drug treatment, an addiction program in the county jail and recovery support coaches. The county also will hire additional staff in the medical examiner’s office, the prosecutor’s office and the Children and Family Services department.

“This is a great beginning,” Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady said at a news conference announcing the plan. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re counting on all the folks behind us and everybody here who cares to help us do that and continue this, because it’s a big job. And hopefully in a few years we can turn the corner on this opiate crisis.”

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said the county hopes to bring in more money to extend the lifespan of its treatment plan.

“We have a trial coming up in a couple weeks, and we are hoping the results of that trial will allow us to make these commitments sustainable,” Budish said. “Otherwise, we’ll have to find other means to do so.”

The Thrive ED program, which stations peer recovery coaches in MetroHealth Medical Center’s emergency room to help addicted patients, is also expected to expand. The settlement dollars will cover the cost of additional coaches for emergency departments at the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. The county also will fund peer support at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

“You can go through detox, but that’s one moment in time,” St. Vincent CEO Janice Murphy said. “Then you have to go back out in the real world with the same stressors, the same things that drove you to the drugs. And with this peer support, we can really help people stay drug free, alcohol free.”

MetroHealth plans to create an opioid program at the county jail to treat inmates with medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. The public hospital also plans to hire more healthcare providers for the jail.

More than $60 million in settlements have been announced so far — a combination of cash payments and pharmaceutical products. Cuyahoga County will receive 62 percent of those settlement funds and Summit County will take 38 percent, according to council budget advisor Trevor McAleer.

Summit County leaders will convene a task force to select recipients of settlement money. The panel will include the county executive, mayor of Akron, a representative from the county health board and other local leaders.

“The dollars received from these settlements will be used to abate the opioid epidemic in accordance with best practices, local quantitative and qualitative data and County sequential mapping,” Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro said in a news release. “This data will be coupled with the input of community partners and the abatement plan laid out by subject matter experts engaged as part of the litigation.”

Details on Cuyahoga County's plan are available here:

 

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