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Morrisey says it’s possible some opioid settlement funds could be distributed by end of year

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says he’s hopeful an executive director of a newly-formed foundation to oversee the distribution of opioid settlement funds can be in place by the end of summer.

Patrick Morrisey

Morrisey said during a Monday news conference that the search for that executive director is underway.

“It’s my hope that in the next 30 to 60 days we can identify a candidate and ultimately once the board is composed, we can get that candidate approved,” Morrisey said. “That executive director will run the day-to-day operations of the foundation.”

Morrisey said a search firm has been hired.

“I’m very optimistic we’re going to find a really good person who can work with the board and make the right decisions,” Morrisey told reporters. “We have to do it better than we saw with tobacco (Tobacco Settlement Funds) and that what we saw with the past distribution of opioid funds.”

The state has received about $1 billion in opioid settlement funds that will be distributed to cities and counties through the West Virginia First Foundation. The state law that created the foundation divides the state into five regions which will be represented on the foundation board by regional directors that will be nominated and voted on in those regions this summer. The executive director will work for the board.

Morrisey said there are already a lot of good efforts underway across the state when it comes to the ongoing battle against the opioid epidemic. He said he hopes one of the first efforts of the board will be to survey those efforts.

“I’m going to be asking the foundation, once it’s set, to do a needs assessment for all of the counties and cities because I don’t want to see any duplication. There are some areas that are doing some really good things. I want to see the money spent wisely. That is my hope,” Morrisey said.

Ther also remainl some opioid lawsuit issues that have to be finalized.

“The Purdue Pharma bankruptcy is still stuck in the courts and that amount remains unclear,” Morrisey said.

There are some rulings pending when it comes to amount of attorneys’ fees to be paid which will impact the final number in settlement funds the state receives.

The design of the West Virginia First Foundation, according to Morrisey, is to focus dollars on those areas of the state that need it most.

“We believe the regional approach will address that in the right way,” he said.

Morrisey added it’s not out of the question that some settlement funds could be awarded later this year.

“With the board being set this summer, we’re looking at probably toward the end of the year where money could actually be distributed, but a lot is up to the court,” Morrisey said.

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