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Louisville Metro announces plan for spending first opioid settlement payout

A view of the front display of a CVS pharmacy on 8th Ave., in Manhattan, N.Y., on Dec. 17, 2015.
Bryan Anselm
A view of the front display of a CVS pharmacy on 8th Ave., in Manhattan, N.Y., on Dec. 17, 2015.

Louisville Metro Government will receive a $7 million installment from numerous opioid settlements by the end of the year.

Mayor Craig Greenberg announced Thursday Louisville’s plans for the first installment of the payout from health care companies and drug manufacturers that contributed to the opioid epidemic.

The first round of spending, roughly $1.5 million, will be split between the Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, the University of Kentucky and Feed Louisville. Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness will also extend the city’s supply of naloxone — the opioid overdose reversal medication also known by the brand name Narcan — and add more overdose prevention training.

“The impact of opioids like fentanyl goes beyond the deaths. It wrecks lives and families. It contributes to challenges like homelessness and public safety,” Greenberg said.

The Kentucky Harm Coalition will expand services in Latino communities and the West End. University of Kentucky will set up a fixed location for Target 4 Region 5, which provides free HIV and Hepatitis C testing and prevention services. Feed Louisville is tasked with expanding outreach to homeless Louisvillians.

Connie Mendel, the interim chief health strategist of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said the distribution of funds was determined by where they were most needed in the city.

“Last year, while total overdose deaths declined in Kentucky, the state saw an increase in overdose deaths among our Black residents,” Mendel said. “The goal of our recommendations is to increase opportunities for everyone to live their healthiest life, and reach their full human potential.”

Greenberg said another $250,000 will go towards setting up a community advisory board, alongside an “external evaluator” that will assess how funds are distributed. The board will be appointed over the next couple of months.

The remaining $5.3 million will be awarded through a public application process, which will launch in fall. The city will prioritize proposals that focus on prevention and long-term recovery. Metro Council will approve all expenditures.

Though Louisville is only receiving $7 million this year, the drug companies and distributors involved will pay out more than $57 million to the city over the next 18 years. The funds are separate from the state’s share of the settlement.

Sarah Martin, the civil division director at the Jefferson County Attorney's Office, said it's possible some of the state’s share could also make its way back to Louisville. Martin said there will likely be more settlements in the future with companies that contributed to the opioid epidemic. Companies that have settled so far include AmericaSource Bergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson, Johnson & Johnson. Just last month, CVS, Walmart, Teva and Allergan also reached national settlements for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

Mendel said that this infusion of cash will not be enough to “solve” the epidemic, but it will save lives in the meantime.

“[We will] continue to invest in evidence-based solutions for substance use prevention and address the needs of people who experience the greatest barrier to accessing harm reduction, treatment and recovery services,” Mendel said.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.

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