Commissioners ask for financial, budget information before finalizing commitments

Wayne County’s commissioners are asking for a little more information from local agencies before finalizing awards from its 2022 opioid settlement money.

Commissioners divvied up $411,000 among seven organizations from the county’s share of a national settlement with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and Amerisource Berger.

The seven were selected from 23 applicants who requested $1,244,596. Four programs are slated to receive their entire funding requests, while the other three would receive 47%, 48% and 75% of their requests.

During their Feb. 15 morning meeting, commissioners decided to request tax returns and budgets for the awarded money from the seven selected organizations. That information was due Feb. 21, so commissioners can finalize the disbursements during their Feb. 22 meeting.

“I really think if we pass out this kind of money we need to know what their financial situation is and specifically what their budget is for the program that we’re funding,” Commissioner Jeff Plasterer said.

By making the funding commitments Feb. 22, commissioners enable the organizations to list that money as matching money if they choose to apply for additional state funding. The state has made $25 million available, and the application deadline is Feb. 28.

Commissioners presented their list and timeline to Wayne County Council during the Feb. 15 evening workshop, and council members unanimously approved allowing commissioners to proceed as planned.

Council member Cathy Williams sat through Jan. 24 and 25 presentations to commissioners by 18 applicants.

“All of those people had great programs, and all of them could use the money and really would have helped with the problem,” Williams said during the workshop.

Plasterer agreed that all applicants had merit, but said the seven selected rose above when commissioners used a scoring system that prioritized saving lives. Commissioners also favored providing a higher percentage of requested funding to fewer programs than spreading the money thinly across more applicants.

Once commissioners prioritized the applicants through the scoring process, they assigned funding until reaching the $411,000 total. Selected programs address transitional housing for people leaving treatment programs and programs providing or facilitating treatment. Transitional housing was identified as an important need within Wayne County to keep newly sober individuals from immediately returning to their prior situations, where relapses become more likely.

Cross Road Recovery Center is preliminarily allotted $160,000 for a new roof and septic system at its U.S. 27 facility south of Richmond to prevent those issues from shutting down its programs. Cross Road provides a free residential recovery program for women and a Victory Transitional Living program. It has averaged helping 56 women per year the past five years and has a 60% success rate.

Centerstone is slated to receive $104,000, which is 48% of its $215,130 request, to open a transitional residence where eight men would spend three months after completing a residential treatment program. The residence would include nine hours a week of outpatient treatment to provide better skills and more time before returning to their lives. The facility would follow Indiana models already functioning in Lexington and Columbus.

Meridian Health Services is allotted $50,000 to help begin a transitional housing program for mothers and babies to stay from 28 days to six months. Medical care would be provided and participants would be connected to mental health and other family services during that time. Other funding will also be needed to open a facility modeled after one in Muncie.

Bridges for Life is preliminarily to receive $35,000 for its program that began in July. Bridges helps remove barriers that prevent individuals from beginning their journey to recovery. Money is allotted to use for each participant’s expenses, such as transportation to facilities, clothes or personal items, while also addressing issues such as lack of insurance or state identification.

Refuge of Hope is to receive $35,000, which is 47% of its $75,000 request. The money is for remodeling its Richmond facility to separate its temporary shelter for women from its Next Step recovery program for women. Refuge of Hope opened in December 2020 and has helped 186 women, including 35 with children. The Next Step participants work and receive services while living at Refuge for up to six months

Salt of the Earth is allotted $15,000, or 75% of its $20,000 request, to develop a sobriety house for men, where they could live for up to a year after becoming sober. The money would help find a location where six men could be housed while working and attending life-skills classes.

Hope House would receive $12,000 to offset operating expenses for its residential treatment program that recently moved to a 14-bed downtown Richmond location. The free program addresses the entire person and teaches life skills for men through four to six months.

Commissioner Mary Anne Butters said Wayne County also now expects to receive about $300,000 this year from a settlement reached with retailers CVS, Walgreens and Walmart that would provide Indiana more than $278 million. Plus, the county is scheduled to receive $74,688.59 as this year’s disbursement from the manufacturer and distributors settlement that continues through 2038.

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Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.