Del Norte Town Board to use opioid funds for regional effort

DEL NORTE — The Del Norte Town Board of Trustees listened to a presentation made by Alamosa County Commissioner Lori Laske on the current San Luis Valley Opioid Settlement.

Laske explained that the State of Colorado was awarded up to $400 million in funds as a result of the Colorado Opioids Settlement though the exact amount that the settlement will bring was being reviewed.

“I am here today representing the Region 18 Opioid Settlement Governance Council. The State of Colorado took on a lawsuit in the last year against large pharmaceutical companies in regards to their unethical behavior on opioid use which led to substance abuse disorders throughout the state. At this point right now, the Attorney General’s office and the State of Colorado has received about $400 million of that lawsuit. That is an estimate, it changes depending on each lawsuit as it comes in. The $400 million is then divided up into four different ways. Ten percent will go to create the Opioid Response Office out of the Attorney General’s department, 10 percent goes to an infrastructure fund, 60 percent goes to the region, which is what I am here to talk to you about today,” explained Laske. 

Laske said that Region 18 is comprised of the six counties in the San Luis Valley and will be receiving funds from the settlement to be used for education, drug treatment and recovery services. The funding that will be issued to local governments is based on population. Laske explained that the Town of Del Norte will be receiving just over $700 annually to be used for recovery, educational and drug treatment services. 

Laske is traveling throughout Region 18 and asking that local governments consider signing an intergovernmental agreement that would take the allocated funding being sent to each local government to be put into a regional fund that would have more impact on the fight against opioid abuse.

“Originally our region was going to be tied in with Pueblo and many people here in the San Luis Valley were very concerned that we would not see our funding, so we worked to create our own region and were successful," Laske said.

“Our region has the mission of creating a two-year plan on how we are going to use the funds that they are going to get plus creating criteria of how to evaluate that and also idea of creating more funds to add to it," Laske said. "Out of the $400 Million, we are anticipating about $120,000 a year. These funds are spread out over 18 years. Again, these are only estimates of what we could potentially get, we do not have the exact amount. What I can say is that these estimates are pretty close. They may change by a few dollars, but they are not going to double or triple by any means.”

Because some of the funding being distributed through the Valley are so unsubstantial, the Region 18 Settlement Governance Council is asking communities like Del Norte to put all of the funding together so that it could be more effective through a collaborative effort of the council. The council is comprised of several local officials including medical professionals who work with opioid and substance abuse programs throughout the Valley.

Laske presented a draft intergovernmental agreement to the board and asked that they approve a motion and put their allocated funding into a regional account. The Del Norte Town Board approved the intergovernmental agreement and chose to dedicate their annual funding to the regional effort. Rio Grande County is serving as the fiscal agent for the settlement funding.