Greenfield, social service agencies mull possible uses of opioid settlement funds

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 07-30-2023 2:19 PM

GREENFIELD — With a more substantial pool to draw from after receiving roughly a year of payments so far, city officials are beginning to discuss with the relevant social service agencies how best to allocate the money Greenfield has received — and will continue to receive — from a nationwide opioid settlement.

“I received exactly what I was looking for, which was some information on ways in which any money that the city would have could fill gaps in the programs [that social service agencies] offer,” said Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, referring to a meeting she took part in last week with local organizations. “There were very good ideas, but no decisions were made. Most of the organizations feel like they’re still weak on outreach; there isn’t enough opportunity for them to be doing outreach, particularly with our unhoused population.”

During this recent meeting, which included representation from The RECOVER Project, Tapestry Health, Wildflower Alliance, Baystate Health and other groups, Wedegartner said there appeared to be a consensus that in addition to increasing outreach, a public engagement process is needed on how to spend the money. There’s no date or timeframe proposed for this type of forum, but she is aiming for a fall timeline.

The settlement, announced in July 2021, set Massachusetts up to receive more than $500 million of the $26 billion settlement, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The agreement, according to then-Attorney General Maura Healey, resolved investigations and litigation over the companies’ roles in creating and fueling the opioid epidemic.

To begin receiving payments, municipalities were required to sign and return a participation form. As a participating municipality, Greenfield will receive $1.7 million over the span of about 15 years, in multiple payments each year. To date, approximately $200,000 has been received, according to Wedegartner.

Elsewhere in Franklin County, towns will receive anywhere from $389 in Monroe to $330,500 in Deerfield, for a total of almost $2.2 million, not including Greenfield. As part of a Franklin Regional Council of Governments survey of local officials in 12 towns, respondents expressed that priority areas for the funds include youth substance use prevention; enhancing the work of co-response programs offered in coordination with local police departments; Narcan training for staff and residents; training and support for emergency personnel to improve interactions with people with opioid use disorder; and bringing more recovery coaches and support groups to community settings.

Wedegartner said because money was coming to the city in relatively small amounts, she wanted to wait until there was “enough of a financial bank” to begin spending it.

Currently, the money is being held in the general fund, with an earmark for its intended use. However, Wedegartner said she has submitted a financial order, to be reviewed at the City Council meeting in August, to create an opioid stabilization fund where that money, and all future payments, would be saved. The fund requires City Council approval.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

PHOTOS: Fight prompts brief traffic backup on Hope Street in Greenfield
Sunderland Bridge being reduced to one-lane traffic next week
Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls father-daughter duo of assistant coach Jay Liimatainen, pitcher Madi Liimatainen celebrate Father’s Day weekend as state champions
Div. 5 softball: Turners Falls blanks Georgetown 5-0, captures MIAA-record 11th state championship in program history (PHOTOS)
In new hands, Green River Festival returns with headliners CAKE, Fleet Foxes and Gregory Alan Isakov
Mutton and Mead organizers chart new course with ‘Roads to Revelry’

Another meeting with social service agencies is expected, at which time they will work out details for the public engagement process.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.

]]>