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Money from billion dollar, national opiate settlement starting to arrive on Cape Cod

Several states distribute Naloxone hydrochloride, also called Narcan, to treat opium-based drug overdoses.
Toby Talbot
/
AP
Several states distribute Naloxone hydrochloride, also called Narcan, to treat opium-based drug overdoses.

More than 8 million dollars is starting to arrive on Cape Cod to help with the opiate crisis.

The money is from a national, multi-billion dollar settlement reached with the manufacturers of the addictive pain medication.

All 15 towns on the Cape will be getting individual, annual payments over the next 16 years, and towns have already received initial payments and are beginning to figure out how to spend the money.

Barnstable County health officials have identified several regional initiatives that could be used to make a large impact by pooling some of the money going to towns.

The county's Department of Human Services and the Regional Substance Addiction Council have recommended looking into starting a recovery high school. The school could help students earn their diploma while getting counseling for substance use. County officials say funding is needed to study if the school is a possibility, but they've looked to the North Shore where a recovery high school has had success.

Also recommended is building a regional support center where people with substance use issues can get help. The county is also recommending the creation of a new substance use fund, and hiring a regional so-called navigator, that would help people find counseling and other services.

County substance use program manager Kate Lena says the settlement funding is a big opportunity to reverse recent trends in the opiate crisis.

“It allows us to be creative, It allows us to be proactive," Lena tells CAI. "It allows us to work with our neighboring towns. So we should be taking this opportunity and really running with it.”

In June, the state’s public health department released data finding that nearly 80 Barnstable County residents died from an overdose in 2021, the highest mark in the last five years.

Lena says that calls for mental health care only intensified during the pandemic, but she says the opiate settlement funding could have a big impact.

"I would encourage towns to consider being really thoughtful, look at the evidence, talk to community members," she said. "Bring in folks with lived experience, to hear what the people of Cape Cod really need at this moment."

Locally, Barnstable is set to get the biggest payment from the settlement with about one hundred thousand dollars a year, or nearly $2 million in total. Falmouth will receive about $1.4 million.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced the $26 billion, national settlement agreement earlier this year. That's with opioid distributors and Johnson & Johnson. More than $500 million is going to the state and its cities and towns. Funding is to be used for prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery.

Sam Houghton has been with the station since the summer of 2017. Before that, he worked at the Falmouth Enterprise, where he covered local politics.