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County looks at options for opioid case settlement

Taylor County’s portion of a nationwide settlement with pharmaceutical companies will likely be used for drug prevention efforts.

A working group of county board members and representatives from the county’s human services department, health department, and court system met Tuesday to plan for a plan on how to spend the funds the county is expected to receive.

County attorney Courtney Graff led the meeting and reported on a statewide summit meeting on the topic she attended. The summit was organized by the Wisconsin Counties Association. The county has the option to get the funds in a lump sum or as a structured settlement over a period of 18 years.

If the county draws over 18 years it will receive $296,672 in settlement while if it takes a lump sum payout, the amount will be $266,311. There is a risk of the settlement funds being depleted if the county takes the longer payout and while it will take formal county board action to decide which option to take, finance director Larry Brandl advised going with the lump sum payout.

Graff noted that as with any funding, the money from the settlement comes with strings attached about how it can be spent. She noted the county has been working with the class action lawsuit for about the past 18 months and the settlement amount was based on the amount of additional expense the county could prove it had from the rise in prescription opioid abuse.

According to Graff, the summit was not as helpful as she hoped it would be and noted that most of those in attendance expressed frustration as to the process.

Graff suggested that rather than hiring a consultant to identify needs such as other larger counties have done, she suggested that they look at what has been identified as needs in the community.

Human Services director Suzanne Stanfley, agreed. “This is a nice sum of money, but it is also not that much money,” she said of the ability to put it toward projects.

Committee member Chuck Zenner said he would like to see it go toward education and prevention efforts. “We want to prevent it, before it happens,” Zenner said of opioid addiction.

Committee members left the meeting with homework to review the information Graff received from the summit and from the WCA and come back to their next meeting on September 6 with proposals. The plan is for the committee to review proposals submitted and bring a recommendation on how the money should be allocated to the county board for action by the October board session.