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What’s Next In WNC After $26 Billion National Opioid Settlement

Courtesy of NCACC
Here's a map of the counties and municipalities that have signed onto the statewide agreement. The updated list of those that have signed on is below.

Last week, three of the country’s major pharmaceutical distributors reached a $26-billion settlement with several states over opioids.  North Carolina was one of them.  Here’s what happens next:

Local government leaders worked to get all 100 counties in North Carolina to sign onto an agreement on how funding from the settlement would be distributed.

Becky Garland, finance officer for Graham County, was part of the group that worked with the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC)  to create the deal.

“I don’t think there was a single member on the committee who had not been touched at some point or the other by a friend or family member who has substance abuse issues,” said Garland.  

It took almost two years for the statewide agreement to come together with NC DOJ, says Garland.

“I sat and watched that press conference and I cried because I really felt like I had made a difference for somebody. That maybe working on this committee has saved a life. If it’s saved one life, it’ll have been worth it,” said Garland.

North Carolina could receive up to $750 million, but all of the state’s counties and biggest cities need to sign on for North Carolina to receive the full amount. Those that don’t sign on won’t receive the settlement in the first year.

As of Friday morning, 42 counties and 15 municipalities have signed on – including all of the far-western North Carolina counties, except Clay and Swain Counties.  

Here's the full list: 

42 counties: Avery, Bladen, Buncombe, Burke, Catawba, Cherokee, Cleveland, Columbus, Edgecombe, Forsyth, Gaston, Graham, Guilford, Halifax, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Hyde, Jackson, Johnston, Jones, Macon, Martin, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Montgomery, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Orange, Perquimans, Person, Robeson, Rutherford, Scotland, Stanly, Transylvania, Warren, Wake, Washington, Wilson, Yadkin

15 municipalities: Newton, Morganton, Clayton, Asheville, Fuquay-Varina, Gastonia, High Point, Lumberton, Robbinsville, Fontana Dam, Lake Santeetlah, Salisbury, Summerfield, Albemarle, Holly Springs

North Carolina would receive about 85 percent of its share with that turnout, according to NCACC.  Find more info here.

The rest have until August 21th to sign on.

Garland says she estimates Graham County will receive about $100,000 per year for the next 18 years from the settlement. She says that number is very preliminary but it would be significant for the county: 

“It doesn’t sound like a hundred thousand dollars is a lot but its more than we’ve got. And in Graham County it’s one penny on our mill rate. So that is really going to give us the boost that we need to help our people that are struggling,” said Garland.  

She says this money will help fund peer counseling and provide recovery support in the county.

“The funding is going to have specific restrictions. It’s going to focus around abatement, prevention and mental health assistance for these folks,” said Garland.  

Funding from the settlement is expected to be handed out in 2022.

Update: NC DOJ shared the deadline for counties to sign onto the agreement is officially August 21st not August 20th. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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