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Rowan County commissioners approve agreement for millions in opioid settlement funding

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday afternoon approved an agreement to receive state proceeds from the settlement of an opioid suit.

As much as $850 million could be heading North Carolina’s way following a future national settlement or bankruptcy resolution with drug distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen and opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma. The settlement was announced earlier this year. Since then, dozens of counties and municipalities across the state have passed the memorandum of understanding.

In 2018, Rowan County joined a number of municipalities across the country in suing pharmaceutical companies for allegedly using false, deceptive and unfair marketing practices to encourage opioid use and that they failed to monitor or report suspicious prescribing orders. While that lawsuit was pending, North Carolina was part of a multi-state settlement that resulted in a $26 billion nationally from the pharmaceutical companies.

According to the agreement, 15% of the settlement funds will be allocated directly to the state, 80% to local governments and 5% will go into an incentive fund for any county or municipality with at least 30,000 residents based on 2019 population totals. Local governments include all 100 counties and 17 municipalities. 

Rowan County is slated to receive 2.34% of the local governments allocation, which is a higher percentage than all but eight counties. Mecklenburg (5.04%) will get the biggest piece of the pie. The percentage Rowan County will receive is based on data collected by the county and submitted to the state, including opioid related overdoses, arrests, the number of people receiving treatment for opioid abuse as well as the amount of Narcan (a drug used to treat opioid overdoses) used by the county’s emergency responders.

It is difficult to determine exactly how much money Rowan County will receive because the details of the settlement are not completely finalized. Using the percentages provided in the memorandum of agreement and the state’s settlement figure of $850 million, Rowan County could receive roughly $16 million. All of the money local governments receive from the settlement will provide additional resources to fight the opioid epidemic.

The city of Salisbury already passed a resolution approving the memorandum of agreement, and County Attorney Jay Dees said other municipalities in the county would likely have to adopt the agreement as well.

The memorandum was passed by commissioners following a closed session during which the board also discussed matters pertaining to West End Plaza that were not acted on during the meeting.

In other meeting business:

• Commissioner Judy Klusman made a plea for unvaccinated Rowan Countians to get the COVID-19 vaccines. She cited the rise in county cases and the Delta variant’s continued transmittance as reasons why being vaccinated is important.

“If you have not had your vaccination, I encourage you to do so,” Klusman said. “If you have questions, please talk to your doctor.”

• Commissioners authorized County Manager Aaron Church to move $5,000 from the county’s contingency fund to Rowan Little League for the Rowan Softball World Series during the week of Aug. 11-18. The funds will help the team afford travel expenses. The tournament will be held in Greenville, South Carolina.

• Commissioners scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. regarding the rezoning request from Tony Jenkins, who owns and operates Reaper’s Realm Haunted House located between Old Linn and Daughtery roads in China Grove. Jenkins is seeking to rezone his property from rural agricultural to commercial, business and industrial to allow for the operation of his seasonal attraction. The rezoning application was denied by the Rowan County Planning Board last month, but commissioners have the ultimate decision.

• Commissioners authorized the city of Salisbury to use the West End Plaza parking lots and two lots downtown during the Cheerwine Festival on Sept. 18. The city will use the lots free of charge.

• Commissioners approved the extension of Rowan Museum’s lease at West End Plaza. The museum, which is headquartered in downtown Salisbury, has rented out approximately 5,320 square feet of space at the former mall since 2016, paying a minimum rent of $1 per year. The museum hosts periodic Museum Store Sales at West End Plaza, where it sells gently used fabrics, furniture and more. The next sale is on Aug. 14 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

• The board approved a revised interlocal agreement between the county and the town of Landis. After using the county’s planning department for floodplain administration services, Landis will now administer the services on its own.

• Commissioners appointed several new county board members. John Muth and William Lucey were approved to the Airport Advisory Board. Debra Currie, Kevin Joines and Mitchel Rousey were reappointed to the Enochville Volunteer Fire Department Fire Commission. Timothy Shaver, Mark Stiller and Alan King were reappointed to the Liberty Volunteer Fire Department Fire Commission, Ashley Bell was appointed to the Nursing Home Advisory Committee. John Ketner and Michelle Patterson were reappointed to the Tourism Development Authority.

Chairman Greg Edds said there are currently about 60 open vacancies on county boards. More information about advisory boards can be found online at onboard.rowancountync.gov.

• The board approved a contract between the Health Department and Rowan-Salisbury School System for the department to provide the school system with two nationally certified nurses or registered nurses working toward national certification. The nurses will work full time with the goal of improving the nurse to student ratio in the system.

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