CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey during a news conference Monday outlined the next steps in the distribution of opioid settlements to the state’s counties and cities who signed onto the West Virginia First Memorandum of Understanding.
Shortly after the filing of the West Virginia First Foundation articles of incorporation, the Attorney General’s Office mailed letters to all the counties and cities that have signed onto the West Virginia First Memorandum of Understanding, informing elected officials about the next steps following the creation of the foundation, as well as information about the settlement funds.
“This is a major step toward healing the battered communities in this state caused by the opioid epidemic,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our mission to heal the wounds of the past is on solid ground as the framework desperately needed to facilitate the management of the state’s and political subdivisions’ is starting to take shape.”
Included in the letters were several pages of answers to frequently asked questions about the settlements, the MOU, how funds can be used and how the foundation will operate.
The state legislature formally recognized the West Virginia First Foundation through the legislative process (Senate Bill 674), with zero nays. Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill into law on March 22, 2023.
The articles of incorporation for the foundation were filed with the West Virginia Secretary of State on May 18, 2023. The initial Board of Directors must be elected within 60 days of the chartering of the foundation, July 17, 2023—the board will have 11 members, five of whom will be appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the state Senate. To represent the interests of local governments, the MOU establishes six regions, and one member will be chosen from each of those regions.
The president of the County Commission of the most populous county—per the 2020 census—must convene a meeting of all local governments in the region to elect a director:
- Region 1: Ohio County
- Region 2: Berkeley County (meeting set for July 12, 1 p.m.)
- Region 3: Wood County
- Region 4: Monongalia County (meeting set for July 13 at the Monongalia County Center, 10 a.m.)
- Region 5: Kanawha County (meeting set for July 12)
- Region 6: Raleigh County (meeting set for July 5 at the Raleigh County Courthouse, 1 p.m.)
Settlement funds must be put to use to abate the opioid epidemic. The Attorney General and counsel for West Virginia cities and counties worked closely to develop and adopt the MOU which provides a mechanism to distribute opioid settlement funds and provides guidelines on how the funds may be used.
All opioid funds must be used in a manner consistent with the MOU’s definition of an “Approved Purpose,” which includes employing evidence-based treatment strategies for substance use disorders or addiction, substance use prevention strategies, law enforcement efforts to curtail drug distribution, supporting addiction recovery programs, or decreasing the oversupply of licit and illicit opioids.
As the central organization dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis throughout the state, the foundation will receive 72.5% of each settlement or judgment, 24.5% of settlement and judgment dollars will be allocated to local governments and 3% will be held in escrow by the state.
This allocation maximizes the amount of money that will be available for an opioid abatement fund and will distribute money throughout the state. This distribution will allow the money to help people and fund projects most in need.
The Attorney General also announced the selection of DR Waterstone Human Capital, an Arlington, Va.-based executive search firm, to find an executive director for the West Virginia First Foundation—a private, nonstock, nonprofit entity created to distribute opioid abatement funds throughout the state.
“I am looking forward to working with them to identify the best possible candidate to serve as the first executive director of the West Virginia First Foundation,” the Attorney General said. “We are hopeful to have identified such a candidate in approximately 30 to 60 days.”
The executive director will run the day-to-day operations of the foundation.
“So many precious lives have been lost and shattered by the opioid epidemic,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Indeed this is the time to begin the healing, but by no means will we let our guard down.”
“We will continue to fight for the families affected by this epidemic and we will serve as the voices of the sons and daughters they have lost,” the Attorney General continued. “We must prevent another generation from falling prey to senseless death and the West Virginia First Foundation will be a major step forward on the path to recovery.