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County eyes ‘impactful’ change with opioid class-action settlement funds


Indian River County is revamping the way millions in proceeds from two opioid class-action settlements are distributed and used each year until the flow of money ends in 2039.

In its role as lead agency, the Substance Awareness Center of Indian River County is tasked with turning the funds into services to fight opioid abuse in the community.

The agency is conducting a needs assessment, including focus groups and interviews with, so far, 110 people, including drug-treatment professionals and people who have dealt with opioid addiction in their families.

“This is an opportunity for us to create a system of impactful and lasting change,” said Carrie Maynard-Lester, Substance Awareness Center executive director.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office handled the class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retail pharmacies “claiming they knew or should have known” about the dangers of opioid addiction.

Indian River County opted into the suit in June 2021, making it eligible for annual payouts from both the retailer and manufacturer settlements. 

So far, $139,000 from the retailer settlement has gone to the 19th Judicial Circuit Alternative Court Program (Drug Court) for assessment, treatment, testing and services for cases diverted from criminal court to drug court.

More than $1.2 million from the manufacturers’ settlement was allocated by the Indian River County Public Safety Council to five local agencies which deal with drug abuse locally on a daily basis. The funds must be used to combat opioid related problems.

The Indian River County Sheriff’s Office received $350,000 for improvements to the treatment wing at the jail. The Substance Awareness Center got $150,000 for the drug treatment program at the jail, plus $50,000 for a countywide needs assessment study. The IRC Mental Health Collaborative received $40,000 for education, training and public awareness. The 19th Judicial Circuit Drug Court, received $305,000 for court-ordered inpatient and outpatient treatment of indigent defendants. The Treasure Coast Homeless Council was awarded $282,000 to house outpatients and drug-addicted people when they are released from jail.

Annual payouts will decrease each year, the manufacturer settlement funds gradually declining to $132,742 in year 18, and the retail settlement funds decreasing to $57,387 in 2039.

Of the $99,139.70 remaining this budget cycle, the additional $60,000 will be used by the Substance Awareness Center to create the expedited fund assessment process and the $39,139.70 was rolled over to be used next year.