Shelby County claims money for recovery from opioid epidemic


By Julie Ehemann - Guest columnist



At long last, companies with a role in making and distributing addictive opioids are recognizing the terrible damage that opioid abuse has done to Ohio families and local communities. Thanks to the determined efforts of state and local leaders, the State of Ohio has negotiated a $808 million settlement with key players in the pharmaceutical industry. While these dollars give Ohio new opportunities to undo the damage done by opioids and strengthen our fight against substance abuse, it’s important to ensure that recovery dollars are distributed fairly around the state.

As a Shelby County commissioner, serving one of Ohio’s rural areas, I’m determined that “business-as-usual” political pressures and Statehouse lobbying should not be allowed to influence how and where these dollars are spent. That’s important to me because the costs and heartaches of opioid abuse have been felt in every corner of the state, from the largest cities to the smallest rural crossroads.

Fortunately, the settlement includes an impartial formula for distributing funds. Thirty percent of the settlement funds are being directly allocated to local counties and municipalities over the next 18 years. Every Ohio county, city, village and township that agrees to participate will receive its proportional share. The State of Ohio will receive15 percent of the total while the remaining 55 percent (more than $440 million) will be administered by the OneOhio Recovery Foundation board, a non-profit, non-government corporation established to ensure equal, transparent and locally driven distribution of settlement dollars for community recovery efforts.

I am honored to serve on the OneOhio Recovery Foundation board, where my colleagues and I are working in close communication with local advisory boards of community leaders and recovery experts in 19 OneOhio distribution regions across the state. These regional advisory groups, including the one I’ve been appointed to represent – Region 15, which covers Shelby, Allen, Auglaize, Darke, Champaign, Logan, Mercer, Miami and Preble counties – will direct each region’s share of settlement funding for close-to-home treatment, prevention and recovery efforts.

Under the OneOhio plan, local governments here in Shelby County, including county government itself, can receive funds to expand local efforts targeted at treatment, prevention and interdiction. The same distribution method applies in the other eight counties and their communities in Region 15.

As a pharmacist, I am all too aware of the damage that abuse and addiction inflict on individuals, families and the full range of public and community services. And as a county commissioner and member of the Shelby County Drug Task Force, I’ve taken an active role in state and countywide efforts for recovery, treatment and prevention.

Now, as a member of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation board, I am helping ensure that recovery settlement dollars are used to directly address our work to prevent the awful ways that opioid addiction and abuse have impacted our families, local resources and quality of life. While we are still in the early stages of setting up the Foundation – working to establish governance policies and hiring an executive director and staff to manage the operation – my fellow board members and I have high hopes for how this organization can help strengthen treatment, prevention and recovery in our state. Through our new website, www.OneOhioFoundation.com, Ohioans may sign up to receive important updates from the Foundation, watch past and future board meetings and monitor other important news.

After years of hard work alongside so many others on the front lines of this crisis, I’m more encouraged today more than ever before. The OneOhio Recovery Foundation is bringing together people from every corner of Ohio, working with a local focus to tackle the opioid crisis head-on in communities where its damage has been felt the most.

By Julie Ehemann

Guest columnist

The writer is a member of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board and is a Shelby County commissioner.

The writer is a member of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board and is a Shelby County commissioner.