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New opioid commission begins funding discussions

Delaware Public Media

A new state commission overseeing the distribution of funds to address the harms created by opioid addiction met for the first time Monday.

Not only does the state charge pharmaceutical companies a fee for every opioid pill dispensed in the state, but after a lawsuit against drug manufacturers, Delaware is expected to receive over $100 million over the next few years in settlement funds.

State Sen. Stephanie Hansen says before creating this opioid commission last year, these funds were distributed through the Department of Health and Social Services.

“The way that that was set up was kinda clunky,” says Hansen. “And to be honest with you, it didn’t work out really well unless you have a specific person that’s devoted to figuring out where the money oughta go and then making sure that it goes there.”

Hansen says that’s what necessitated the creation of this commission, which will oversee the opioid settlement funds.

And she adds dedicated staff, such as Susan Holloway, the Opioid Fund program director, will ensure the money is used to actually help the people directly harmed by opioids.

Joanna Champney is the director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. Champney says a major focus when deciding where funds go is addressing issues that hamper access to addiction treatment.

“Treatment is a critical component to recovery — but people have a lot of other needs, other than going to treatment,” Champney says. “If they don’t have a place to stay, they don’t have food to eat, they don’t have money for childcare or other things that they need to stay afloat; it’s really difficult to focus on recovery when your basic needs are not met.”

Lieutenant Gov. Bethany Hall-Long says this commission will be vital to building a list of recommendations that guide the use of the opioid settlement funds.

The commission is expected to meet again in March, and then quarterly after that. Members will begin developing subcommittees to help create recommendations that will be reviewed by the Behavioral Health Consortium.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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