Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Tri-county could receive almost $2M from another opioid settlement

County governments, along with the state’s largest municipalities, are eligible for additional opioid settlement money if they join a multi-state settlement with Kroger. 

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — County governments, along with the state’s largest municipalities, are eligible for additional opioid settlement money if they join a multi-state settlement with Kroger. 

READ MORE: Pender County in planning stages to spend $6.8M in opioid settlement funds

Last year, Attorney General Josh Stein and other attorneys general reached an agreement with Kroger for the grocery and pharmacy chain — which operates Harris Teeters in North Carolina —  to pay out $1.37 billion to state and local governments for its contribution to the nation’s opioid crisis. 

The settlement comes on the heels of other agreements made last fall with other pharmacy chains, including Walmart, CVS and Walgreens. 

North Carolina is one of 33 states that have joined the Kroger lawsuit which could bring $40 million if all 100 counties and municipalities opt in to the settlement; they have until Aug. 12 to do so.

Each of the state’s 100 counties are eligible to join along with any city over 30,000 people, which would include Wilmington. According to parties in the settlement, New Hanover would stand to receive the most money with $988,594, followed by Brunswick County at $721,072, then Pender County with $199,867 and the City of Wilmington with $40,774, though the city’s funds will be transferred to the county.

According to the memorandum of understanding, any entity receiving Kroger Funds shall either deposit the money in a special revenue fund created for opioid settlement funds or create a separate special revenue fund for Kroger money. The settlement funds are expected to be distributed during the 2024-2025 fiscal year and they will be made in installments over 11 years.

Port City Daily asked each government if it had joined the settlement or was planning to. Pender County spokesperson Brandi Cobb said county staff gave the go ahead this week; she added the county doesn’t have plans for the money at this time, but the funds will be placed in the opioid settlement funding line.

City of Wilmington spokesperson Lauren Edwards said the decision to join will need to go before city council. 

Brunswick County spokesperson Meagan Kascsak provided a similar report, noting the county “only recently received the notice, so the board of commissioners has not had the opportunity to discuss it.”

New Hanover County did not respond by press, though internal emails among New Hanover staff indicate the decision to join the settlement will not need to go before county commissioners. Chief Financial Officer Eric Credle wrote to staff it will have the authority to join the settlement without additional commissioner approval due to a 2021 resolution that allows staff to execute these types of agreements.  

Wilmington and New Hanover County are set to discuss their opioid settlement funding plans, in which the former would turn over its proceeds to the county, at both bodies’ respective meetings next week.

Wilmington and New Hanover County have been awarded $18.7 million from the National Settlement Agreement; $2.4 million has been distributed so far and the remaining to be distributed through 2038. 

According to the proposed plan, the majority of the $2.4 million will go toward medication-assisted treatment for EMS ($520,000) and the New Hanover County Detention Center ($182,000) and recovery housing support in treatment or recovery ($250,000). 

Pender County has received $6.8 million so far and Brunswick County has received $5.5 million, though both are set to receive more in the coming decade.

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