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Wheeling council hears alternative proposals on use of opioid settlement funds

By Eric Ayres, The Intelligencer

WHEELING, W.Va. – Members of Wheeling City Council were slated to cast a final vote on legislation pertaining to the distribution of more than $584,000 from the city’s share of West Virginia’s opioid settlement funds, but officials unanimously decided to table the matter for further discussion.

Despite the fact that council members put the legislation on hold, several people in attendance during Tuesday night’s city council meeting had signed up to speak about the opioid settlement distribution. Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Mayor Glenn Elliott, moved to deviate from the normal order of business and allow those who signed up to speak on the topic to do so.

According to the ordinance up for second readings and a final vote Tuesday night, all of the money from this round of opioid settlement distributions would go to fund requests submitted by the Wheeling Police Department and the Wheeling Fire Department. Speakers urged council to look to agencies outside the city for distribution of these funds.

Some who spoke before council Tuesday night proposed other specific uses – including funding directed more toward drug abuse treatment and prevention efforts as opposed to emergency response and enforcement measures.

“Substance use disorders are catastrophic to the very fabric of our society and continue to have a significant and costly impact on the health, well being and economy of Wheeling,” said Laura Weigel, program director at the YWCA Wheeling, who brought a “posse” of representatives from the YWCA and other local organizations with her. “The substance abuse epidemic in West Virginia has negatively affected individuals and families, present ongoing challenges to health care and behavioral health systems and significantly impacted the economic vitality of the city and the state.”

Weigel said that no state has been as profoundly impacted by the substance use epidemic as West Virginia, which continues to have the highest rate of age-adjusted drug overdose deaths in the nation. Expanded substance abuse treatment and programs for education and training of behavioral health therapists and certified addiction and health care providers is needed, Weigel said.

Read more: https://www.theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2024/05/council-hears-alternative-proposals-on-use-of-opioid-settlement-funds/

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