On December 4, 2023, a committee of the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority (OAA) voted to award more than $470,000 in grants to ten Virginia cities and counties for opioid abatement and remediation efforts.
Nine of the ten awards, including Patrick County, will support planning efforts for the recipient localities to identify community-specific needs, gaps, and possible solutions to the opioid crisis.
Sen. Todd Pillion, Chairman of the OAA, said, “we encourage localities to carefully evaluate how to best use their opioid settlement funds at the local level, and the OAA’s planning grants are an important tool to help them do exactly that.”
Recipients are required as a condition of the grant to publish the resulting plan, and to use that plan to explain and justify future OAA grant applications. “We are talking about opioid settlements coming to Virginia every year for 18 years, and so we recommend communities have a road map in place for how it will use those funds to save lives,” said Pillion.
Five localities were provided planning grants of $50,000 each: Botetourt, Patrick, and Warren Counties, and the cities of Colonial Heights and Salem. The counties of Prince Edward, Buckingham, and Cumberland were jointly provided a planning grant for $50,000 that will be administered by Prince Edward. In each case the recipient localities committed to provide a ten percent match.
Loudoun County received a planning grant of $200,000, to which it will add $160,000 in its own funding for a total program valued at $360,000. The Loudoun County effort includes not only a planning component but will also establish a county-wide opioid response program with a newly created administrator overseeing a county opioid task force.
In addition to the planning grants, the OAA announced an individual grant award to the City of Manassas to hire a harm reduction specialist within the local Department of Social Services. Under this program the city will provide outreach and support to individuals affected by opioid misuse, their families, community members, local agencies, healthcare providers, and stakeholders. Through community engagement and educational programs, the project aims to reach a significant portion of the city’s population. The OAA also approved a request from Manassas for renewal of this project for next fiscal year.
The OAA began accepting Fiscal Year 2024-2025 grant applications in October, and all applications must be submitted by April 1, 2024. During this timeframe certain types of grants can be awarded on a rolling basis, but most of the grants will be awarded after the application cycle has ended.
Virginia expects to receive a total of approximately $1.1 billion from litigation against manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies that were alleged to have contributed to the opioid crisis. Payments from these settlements and bankruptcies began in 2022 and are expected to conclude by 2041.
The OAA was established by the General Assembly in 2021 to oversee the distribution of 55% of Virginia’s total settlement funds. Of the remainder, 30% is distributed directly to cities and counties, and the remaining 15% to the commonwealth. The use of funds is restricted by court orders and state statute, with the restrictions aiming for the funds to be used for opioid abatement efforts.