Garfield County opts into receiving more opioid settlement funds, looks to use money for Mind Springs recovery center
Garfield County commissioners on Monday unanimously agreed to opt in to receiving further funds from opioid litigation settlements reached for Colorado.
Per opioid litigation, the county originally participated in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) spearheaded by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser in 2021. The contract divides up some $700 million in settlement funds from major drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, including Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen and McKinsey & Co.
According to the MOU, 20% of settlement funds go directly toward participating local governments — with Garfield County being one of them. County Manager Fred Jarman said the county has so far received about $49,783 in 2022, which is being directed toward the new withdrawal management facility — formally referred to as a detox center — currently being constructed at the Mind Springs Health location in Glenwood Springs.
Jarman said the county was recently made aware by Weiser’s office of a second round of funds to be distributed among local governments. County documents show additional settlements have been reached with Teva, Allergen, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens, and with the county’s blessing, it’s now slated to receive about $354,666 over the next 7-14 years.
The new funding schedule comes at a time when the Garfield County Commission expressed opposition to spending opioid settlement funds on anything but Mind Springs’ newest withdrawal management facility.
“We’re using these funds for our operational costs at the new detox center,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said on Monday.
That same MOU the county signed with Colorado in 2021 shows that another 60% of settlement funds are being distributed among 19 regions in Colorado. Garfield County joins Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Lake counties in making up Region 5, and it’s set to receive about another $40,000 annually in regional distributions.
In early February, the county’s Region 5 representative, Garfield County Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt, said the region is currently proposing to also use settlement funds to create public education campaigns, an opioid data dashboard and providing clean syringes and the overdose prevention drug Naloxone locally.
But since Garfield County does not have to establish a new MOU for this new round of settlement funds, it now has free rein to decide on what it wants to do with its newest $354,666 stipend.
The remaining 20% of settlement funds established through the MOU is being directed toward the state or abatement infrastructure projects.
Mind Springs Health Executive Vice President of Operations Amy Cooper Everett told the Post Independent on Monday afternoon that the Glenwood Springs withdrawal management center is likely to open sometime in fall. Construction was originally slated to finish in January but the project ran into roadblocks with shipping, she said.
The $1.8 million center, currently in a building contract with Carbondale-based RAM Development Inc., is going to be a medical model as opposed to social. This means, if it’s not a life-threatening situation, anyone suffering from drug-related withdrawal symptoms can be taken directly to the center as opposed to a hospital emergency room.
“It’s going to take the pressure off emergency medical systems,” Everett said.
The center is set to have up to eight beds, with at least three withdrawal management nurses, case managers and therapists on site, she said. In addition to on-site professionals, things like telehealth and 24/7 monitoring are to be incorporated.
With more opioid settlement funds coming into the county, Everett was open for the commission directing the money toward the center.
“It would be a substantial help, and we would love to partner with the county to receive these dollars to operationalize this program, if that’s the direction they decide to go,” she said.
Post Independent western Garfield County reporter and Assistant Editor Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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