The formula used to distribute Pennsylvania’s share of the nationwide opioid settlement to its 67 counties is resulting in them receiving sharply different amounts of money, Spotlight PA reported this week.
The independent investigative news website calculated the payments received so far on a per capita basis. The results ranged from a high of $23.23 per resident in Cameron County to a low of $1.13 per resident in Centre County. The statewide average was $6.50.
The $1.6 million Lancaster County has received so far works to $2.91 per resident. Only five counties had lower amounts.
The allocation formula was created to reflect not only population size, but the level of local need. The two don’t necessarily correlate, a spokesman for the state’s attorney general told Spotlight PA.
The measures of need included “drug overdose deaths, opioid use disorder-related hospitalizations, the number of naloxone doses administered by emergency medical services, and prescription opioids dispensed,” the article says.
Two other factors figure in the payout amounts: Counties were guaranteed a minimum of $1 million, and 41 counties are receiving extra payments because they took part in pre-settlement litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Lancaster County is not among them.
Lancaster County officials elected not to comment on Spotlight PA’s findings.
According to Joining Forces, the Lancaster County coalition battling the opioid epidemic, there were 105 opioid overdoses here in 2022, down from 133 in 2021. From 2017 to 2021, there were 3,676 documented instances of naloxone being administered to overdose victims.
So far, Lancaster County has put opioid settlement funds toward the County Prison’s medication assisted treatment or MAT program; the Pathways to Recovery diversion program; and two positions on the Drug Task Force: A prosecutor who handles cases in the county’s treatment courts and a detective who conducts drug education and the Drug Take Back program.
Funding will also be used to reimburse county Behavioral Health/Developmental Services for the hiring of a caseworker specializing in neonatal abstinence syndrome. One more potential use, according to the county’s framework, is support for the Student Assistance Program, an assessment and referral program for middle school and high school students.
Local advocate Gail Groves Scott has called on the county to forego Drug Task Force funding and direct that money instead to frontline harm reduction efforts.