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'I've watched 100 people die': Louisville organizations share input on how to spend state's multi-million dollar opioid settlement

Kentucky is set to receive $478 million; of that, Louisville will receive $31.8 million.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Grassroots organizations in Louisville spoke out Tuesday night at a meeting to help determine how the state’s opioid settlement will be spent.

Kentucky is set to receive $478 million; of that, Louisville will receive $31.8 million.

Louisville joined a national, multi-district litigation in August 2017 to hold drug pharmacies and distributors responsible for the opioid epidemic.

The settlement is part of a $26 billion national agreement with Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, the nation's top pharmaceutical distributors, as well as Johnson & Johnson.  

Local organizations, including VOCAL-KY and Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, said they want some of those funds for housing, harm reduction and care.

The 2021 Drug Overdose Report indicated that 2,250 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses in 2021, a 14.5% increase from the year prior. More than 107,000 overdose deaths were reported in the United States between December 2020 to December 2021.

Pony Morris said he could have been a part of that number, but grassroots organizations helped.

“In five years, I've watched 100 people die that all could have been prevented,” Morris said.

Credit: Ian Hardwitt/WHAS-TV
Nov. 1, 2022; Dozens gather at Simmons College of Kentucky to discuss how funds obtained through an opioid settlement should be used in Kentucky.

At Simmons College Tuesday night, groups called on the Opioid Abatement Advisory Committee to listen.

"Smaller organizations that are doing the work on the streets, and we don't do it with the best of money because we don't get it, or we get complex applications that we have to fill out because they're not people ready,” Shreeta Waldon, executive director of Kentucky Harm Reduction Coalition, said.

There were passionate pleas from people in recovery, and from family members of loved ones who died of overdoses.

Committee Director Bryan Hubbard said he welcomed the feedback and understands the importance of making sure grassroots organizations receive some of the money.

"We've got to adjust our approach so that we are able to deliver people the care, the love, the support and the treatment that they need to reclaim ownership of their lives,” Hubbard said.

He said the committee will host two more town halls - one in Bowling Green and another in Paducah. Then, they will sort applications, with they plan to distribute money in Spring of 2023.

► Contact reporter Bobbi McSwine at BMcSwine@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter


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