GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) — Westmoreland County is set to receive millions of dollars as a part of a $26 billion settlement against pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid crisis.
For those fighting the addiction battle on the administrative level, the windfall from the Johnson & Johnson federal lawsuit settlement couldn’t come at a better time for Westmoreland County.
“We are blessed to have this money,” County Commissioner Sean Kertes said.
Facing record addiction and overdose numbers in the county, the funds will be focused on the largest population centers in the county, including North Huntingdon, Penn, Rostraver, Derry, Hempfield, Unity, Lower Burrell, Murrysville, New Kensington, Mt Pleasant and Greensburg.
While it’s yet to be determined, Kertes thinks the communities can best figure out what needs to go where in the battle against addiction.
“We give the appropriate monies to the municipalities,” he said. “They know what this money can be used for.”
“It helps us get in the right direction to change the environment,” said Tim Phillips, director of Westmoreland County’s Drug Overdose Task Force. “I think that’s the ticket.”
An estimated $22 million in lawsuit settlement money will head to Westmoreland County over the next 17 years and must be invested in certain things.
“Really there are three buckets: treatment, prevention and first responders,” Kertes said.
For Phillips, if handled correctly, these funds will have a major impact.
“We’ll be able at the task force to increase our capacity to offer some additional services, hopefully, save some more lives,” he said.
The first funds are due to the county by Aug. 31, with the next payment of $1.9 million coming around the holiday season. After that, the funds are expected to be distributed.