Ohio foundation begins process to distribute millions in opioid settlement money


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio is ready to begin doling out millions of dollars in opioid settlement money to community and government organizations, an influx eagerly anticipated since the first sums were secured in 2021.

The OneOhio Recovery Foundation, who has been tasked with distributing over $860 million of settlements reached with drugmakers and pharmaceutical companies for their roles in the national opioid crisis, plans to release its formal request for proposals Monday.

Drugmakers, wholesalers, pharmacies and other companies have agreed to settlements over the toll of opioids that are to pay state, local and Native American tribal governments more than $50 billion. Under the agreements, most of the money is to be used to address the overdose epidemic.

The foundation will allocate up to $51 million in its 2024 grant cycle for Ohio-based non-profits, for-profits and government entities alike who are “on the frontlines of Ohio’s opioid battle.” The program is the first of its kind in the United States.

Those applying must still follow certain parameters outlined by OneOhio, including that all programs and services proposed must be “evidence-based, forward-looking strategies for prevention, treatment, (and) recovery support services.”

Eligible projects may span one, two or three years and must be regionally-focused. Registration starts Monday and applications are due by May 3.

Alisha Nelson, executive director of OneOhio, said in a press release that the foundation understands how urgent the need to disperse the settlement money is as the state continues to feel the impact of the opioid epidemic.

“After months of carefully developing this first-ever program, we look forward to seeing the innovative ideas presented to combat the epidemic in every corner of the state,” Nelson said.

The foundation is registered as a private non-profit organization, though it was launched by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and GOP Attorney General Dave Yost in 2021. It’s governed by a 29-member statewide board, many of which are state lawmakers and the appointees of state officials, but also includes addiction experts from across Ohio.

It has previously faced scrutiny, as well as a lawsuit, over lacking transparency.

Last summer, DeWine appointed Nelson as the foundation’s first ever permanent executive director.

“After careful consideration, I selected Alisha to fill this role because I know that she shares my vision of intentionally using these settlement funds to help Ohioans struggling with substance use disorder for years to come,” DeWine said last year.

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