Berrien County plans to use funds from National Opioid Settlement to solve crisis

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 6:42 PM EST
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BERRIEN COUNTY, MI. (WNDU) - On Thursday, Berrien County Health Officials presented Commissioners with data on the county’s opioid crisis, and how funds that will be coming in from the National Opioid Settlement will be allocated.

In February of this year, four major pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson, finalized a $26 billion opioid settlement to resolve liabilities in over 3,000 opioid-crisis related lawsuits nationwide.

As a result of the settlement, the state of Michigan has received $800 million, and Berrien County will receive $4.4 million of that to be distributed over 18 years.

“Which really breaks down to about 250,000 dollars a year,” said Guy Miller, the Berrien County Health Officer.

Miller told 16 News Now that with the treatment programs, educational programs, and recovery efforts they hope to fund, it isn’t a lot of money, but hope it will be enough.

“The average age of first use in Berrien County of any substance is 11-years old,” Miller said when emphasizing the importance of educating residents, including children, on the dangers of substance use.

“There’s just a lot of different areas that efforts have to be put forth, and if effort is put only in one of those buckets. It’s not going to have an effective change over time. We really need efforts in all of these areas,” Miller said.

According to the Health Department, Berrien County currently ranks 14th out of the 83 Michigan counties for number of yearly overdose deaths, but hope that the settlement money and collaborative efforts from various organizations will change that.

“It is a good time, with this money coming to say what are we doing. What can we do as a unified response. With Berrien County Health Department, Berrien County Mental Health authorities, the Sheriff’s department, different substance use programs. We’ve got Corwell South down here. How can we all come to the table?” said Miller.