Philly outlines plan to spend opioid settlement money

opioid settlement
Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration announced the spending plan on Thursday.
Metro file

Philadelphia will use more than $20 million from a legal settlement with opioid distributors to provide grants to community organizations, invest in Kensington and fund services for drug users.

The plan, outlined last week, utilizes money from a national $26 billion deal to settle lawsuits against Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Johnson & Johnson alleging the firms helped fuel the opioid crisis.

About $200 million is set to be allocated to Philadelphia over 18 years, Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said, and more funding could emerge from proposed settlements with CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and other companies.

The two-year plan announced this week would devote just over $20 million to a range of initiatives.

“We believe this plan can immediately impact lives and produce outcomes that residents can see and feel – in their parks, their schools and their homes,” Kenney said in a statement.

Most immediately, community groups have until Feb. 3 to apply for the $3.5 million allocated to the newly-formed Overdose Prevention and Community Healing Fund. A selection committee is scheduled to evaluate submissions in the spring.

Grants of $20,000 and $100,000 will be available, with priority for nonprofits operating in the 19134 (Kensington, Port Richmond), 19124 (Frankford, Juniata), 19133 (Fairhill), 19123 (North Philadelphia) and 19140 (North Philadelphia) zip codes.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s annual overdose report, published in October, found that, in 2021, 169 people died of unintentional overdose in 19134 – more than double that of any other zip code.

In total, 1,276 fatal overdoses occurred in the city, a record level and a 5% increase compared to 2020. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid more potent than heroin, was present in 77% of cases.

Officials said $7.5 million of the settlement money would go to the Kensington Health & Wellness Corridors plan.

The effort, from the New Kensington Community Development Corporation and Impact Services, is seeking to strengthen Kensington and Indiana avenues with beautification projects, affordable housing, community-centered developments, and improvements to McPherson Square.

Funding will also support mobile units to provide methadone, a drug used to help people break opioid addiction, and wound care to those using drugs on the street, according to the Kenney administration.

City officials said the settlement money would also go toward expanded outreach teams to engage people at risk of overdosing and setting up stable housing for people experiencing homelessness.