Virginia’s Opioid Abatement Authority finalizes awards totaling $23 million in grants to 76 cities and counties
The Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority (OAA) has voted to award more than $23 million in grants to 76 Virginia cities and counties for opioid abatement and remediation efforts.
In the City of Radford, Montgomery County, and surrounding area, the funds will be administered by the New River Valley Regional Commission.
“The New River Valley Regional Commission will be coordinating a collaborative regional opioid abatement program with Montgomery County serving as the fiscal agent for NRV Recovery Ecosystem project. Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties and the City of Radford in the New River Valley partnered in the development of the proposal,” the NRVRC announced. “Each locality provided substantial matching funds from their Opioid Abatement Authority (OAA) direct allocation equating to $1.2M of local funds for a program total of $3.3million when combined with the grant funds.”
Senator Todd Pillion, Chairman of the OAA, called the vote “historic,” noting that all regions of the state will receive portions of the grant awards.
“We were pleased to see that communities across the Commonwealth have committed to use opioid settlement funds to truly fight the opioid epidemic, both with new programs and in expansion of existing programs that have proven records of success,” he said. “Virginia is using its opioid settlement funds to turn the tide against this epidemic, and the projects we funded in this award package will save lives.”
Dr. Sarah Thomason, a clinical pharmacist who chairs the OAA’s Grants Committee, said the OAA sought to provide a balance in the types of awards made.
“The programs we funded in this round address gaps across the board, ranging from prevention and education, to treatment, to long-term recovery,” she said.
The proposed awards include grants to 13 individual cities or counties and 26 grants to partnerships in which multiple cities and/or counties committed to a regional approach, like the NRV Recovery Ecosystem project.
“Projects vary based on the identified needs of each community and range from expansion of medication for opioid use disorder treatment programs, to recovery housing, to in-patient services,” the OAA announced.
The decision by the Board marks the first major allocation of OAA grants within Virginia since the Commonwealth received its first set of national settlement payments from manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids in 2022. The payments from the various settling companies are expected to continue for at least 16 more years and will exceed $1 billion in total funding. In 2022 Attorney General Jason Miyares announced the first round of finalized settlements worth more than $500 million for the Commonwealth spread over the course of eighteen years, and predicted the total will increase to more than $1 billion as additional settlements are finalized. The OAA was established by the General Assembly in 2021 to oversee the distribution of 55% of Virginia’s total settlement funds. Of the remainder, 30% is distributed directly to cities and counties, and the remaining 15% to the commonwealth. The use of funds is restricted by court orders and state statute, with the restrictions aiming for the funds to be used for opioid abatement efforts.
According to the NRVRC, a “unique aspect of the New River Valley Recovery Ecosystem program is the oversight and integration across prevention, treatment, recovery and harm reduction measures intentionally coordinated with an approach to develop structural changes to root out the disease and support wellness across the region. The NRV Regional Commission’s executive director, Kevin Byrd, says this will create opportunities for the region.
“As we did during the pandemic response, our agency will deliver administrative support to the regional team assembled for this unique program that will help ensure residents and employers in the New River Valley have the greatest opportunity to thrive in a globally competitive economy,” said Byrd.
Sherri Blevins, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, said the county welcomes the opportunity to serve as the fiscal agent for the regional effort.
“Just as we did in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Montgomery County welcomes the opportunity to once again serve our citizens and regional partners as the grant recipient on behalf of this significant project,” said Blevins. “We are looking forward to collaborating with our neighboring local governments and regional agencies as we come together to address this challenge in our communities.”
“Not every element of this proposal is new, but its integration of local government, service providers, criminal justice institutions, and program evaluation has been well-honed in the New River Valley,” the NRVRC stated.
Giles County Administrator Chris McKlarney says he sees the OAA funding as “an important resource to continue work addressing opioid addiction through our FOCUS programs and specifically the highly successful and unique drug court recovery fitness program.
“Integrating this resource to support our citizens toward successful recovery is key to improving life for them and their families,” he continued. “The development of this proposal is deeply rooted in a long-held collaborative framework between local government and service providers in the region. Local governments committed their direct opioid abatement allocations as match to this program and several service providers are delivering in-kind staffing support.”
Jason Ballard, Virginia House of Delegates member who serves on the OAA Board says he looks forward to the region putting the funding to good use.
“As a legislator who represents a large portion of the New River Valley, and as an appointed member of the Opioid Abatement Authority, I have seen first-hand the impact that opioid misuse and addiction have had on our communities,” said Ballard. “I remain very supportive of the collaborative county application and appreciative of the funding that has been awarded. I look forward to seeing our region put this investment to good use in changing the lives of citizens within the New River Valley and beyond.”
“The work ahead, like the proposal development itself, will be implemented by many organizations and individuals and is intended to support and connect our community to strengthen well-being and address the impacts of addictions and the underlying factors that create addiction risks to individuals and communities,” he continued.
The New River Valley Regional Commission is one of 21 planning districts in Virginia chartered under Virginia law. The purpose of the
Planning District Commission is to promote regional cooperation, to coordinate the activities and policies of member local governments, and to provide planning assistance to local governments.