Philly announces plan to invest $200M in opioid settlement funds
By Alec Larson
PHILADELPHIA — Community members, health professionals and public officials gathered earlier this week as Mayor Jim Kenney announced the City of Philadelphia’s plan to begin spending funds from the $200 million the city is set to receive as a result of the national opioid lawsuit settlements.
The first two years of funds will go toward “city- and community-led programs,” according to a news release. The city will receive the full $200 million over the next 18 years,
The initial investments will go to “an array of crisis response strategies, including both citywide and neighborhood programs as well as efforts to address the individual and community impacts of opioids.”
“These investments have been informed and guided by the insight and collaboration generously offered by community leaders. The overdose crisis has wrought incalculable harm on communities across the United States, and the grief and community trauma have compounded for years in Philadelphia as well — especially in Kensington and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Kenney said.
“In the face of this evolving crisis, we are committed to prevention, treatment and healing and achieving long-term change. We believe this plan can immediately impact lives and produce outcomes that residents can see and feel — in their parks, their schools and their homes.”
Some of the ways that the funds will be used include: an investment in the Overdose Prevention and Community Healing Fund, mobile wound care, the launch of Mobile Methadone, investments in Kensington, additional housing opportunities, the expansion of targeted outreach for at-risk communities and the expansion of Medication Assisted Treatment Behind the Walls.
Philadelphia recorded 1,276 unintentional overdose deaths in 2021, the highest annual rate ever. Major factors driving the increase include “the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, restricted access to health care and harm reduction services, and the changing drug supply,” according to the city.
“The isolation and stress of the pandemic and the growing presence of fentanyl in opioids and other drugs have led to an overall increase in unintentional drug overdose deaths, as well as a very troubling increase in overdoses among Black and Hispanic/Latino/a Philadelphians,” said Noelle Foizen, director of the city’s Overdose Response Unit.
“This crisis is growing more complex by the day, and the settlement funds will give our outreach, care and community services a much-needed opportunity for expansion. We are committed to working across City departments and with community members and partner organizations to put an end to this crisis and heal together from the damage and trauma it’s caused.”
Community investment will be “a core part” of the city’s response to the opioid crisis. The plan specified that $7.5 million of the funds will go toward a Kensington Health and Wellness Corridors master planning effort led by New Kensington Community Development Corporation and Impact Services.
“We are heartened that the City has made a significant contribution towards addressing key challenges that have been identified by so many stakeholders in our community,” said a joint statement by Dr. Casey O’Donnell, president/CEO of Impact Services, and Dr. Bill McKinney, executive director of New Kensington Community Development Corporation.
“We are looking forward to not only the additional resources coming into our neighborhood but for the opportunity for everyone to bring their strengths to the table through a community driven, trauma informed, comprehensive planning and implementation process. Together we will shape Kensington’s future so that current community members can thrive.”
Alec Larson is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.