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Cuyahoga County Readies To Spend $23 Million From Opioid Settlements

Cuyahoga County Council took a deeper look Monday into the $23 million plan to fund drug treatment, a new drug court, a jail diversion center and other with the first wave of money paid out by drug companies to settle lawsuits over the opioid crisis.

The proposal would spend only a small portion of the county’s settlement funds, which currently total around $116 million, according to county officials. Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish hasn’t said how his administration will use the bulk of the settlement money.

About $4.2 million from this first wave of spending would add 32 residential drug treatment beds at the West Side recovery center Stella Maris, increasing the number of beds by about 9 percent. Additional settlement dollars also would support treatment programs at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center.

Republican council members Jack Schron and Nan Baker pressed officials from the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board to explain how they picked treatment programs for settlement money and how they measured success.

ADAMHS Board CEO Scott Osiecki said his organization selected the programs based on the services they already provide and their good reputations. The board will receive monthly reports, he said, and can track who returns to treatment after relapsing.

“But relapse, unfortunately, is a part of the recovery process,” Osiecki said. “So we probably will see some people coming back. But that gives us an additional chance to see, what other things can we do?”

The proposal would spend $3 million placing peer recovery coaches in Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals emergency rooms. The coaches already work in MetroHealth Medical Center, helping patients find recovery programs.

Democratic Council President Dan Brady said he and the Budish administration put the plans together on the advice of the county’s attorney ahead of the scheduled October 2019 bellwether trial in federal court.

“It was considered to be pretty sound stuff,” Brady said. “Is it perfect? No. Do I have my own questions about some of it? Yes. But in terms of making decisions, you have to make them, and that’s what we did.”

Council’s finance committee voted to send the proposal on to the full council for approval on March 10. Cuyahoga and Summit counties aren’t finished pursuing damages from the drug industry over the opioid crisis. The two counties are preparing for a trial against pharmacy chains later this year.

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