Bellows Falls Trustees discuss opioid settlement

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the National Opioid Settlement payment to the village. Photo provided

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, the Bellows Falls Village Trustees discussed the National Opioid Settlement payment to the village.

$26 billion in settlements were paid in February by the “Big Three” drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, along with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. 90% of litigating local governments confirmed participation to receive recovery funds.

Municipal Manager Scott Pickup explained that the village will have received two separate distributions by the end of 2022: $3,186 in July and $3,348 in November. Pickup said at last week’s Selectboard meeting, Turning Point South representatives joined Greater Falls Connections (GFC) Director Laura Schairbaum to present their proposal for a town-funded community outreach coordinator. Turning Point South representatives Zach Labelle and Lama Tomas O’Flaherty Jr. asked the Town of Rockingham for a one-time grant of $4,050, to pay 24 weeks for a part-time outreach coordinator, and for signs at George Street and at the entrance of the carriage house at Parks Place. The town approved the request as a 24-week trial with their settlement funding.

Pickup explained that Turning Point South worked with GFC, and the signs would be on the fence at George Street and the Parks Place carriage barn. He said that Turning Point also worked with drug treatment and awareness programs in both Springfield and Brattleboro.

Pickup said this was an agenda item for trustee feedback and opinions; at the moment there was no specific proposal. Trustee Wade Masure asked if there were certain stipulations for where the money went. Pickup said it was a loose definition of health and wellness and there were no guidelines. Trustee Jeff Dunbar was curious about the town’s one-time grant proposal, asking what other resources there were for rehabilitation services.

Pickup said that the town’s proposal was a trial to see if it was effective for recovery and treatment. McAuliffe said he wanted to be sure the money was used in the village, and mentioned Covid’s effect on social services. He said that Parks Place was thriving, and “Laura is the only tenant left.” McAuliffe admitted it was a shame she was leaving, saying, “She’s been a great force in this community.”

Parks Place recently hired Jennifer Tolaro-Heidbrink as Director to replace Megan Applegate.

Pickup said the problems in Bellows Falls are greater than the $7,000 they received, suggesting there might be ways to use the money to leverage other funding. He admitted a lot of people have been impacted by opioids.

Village President Deborah Wright said she knows there are organizations who assist people in rehabilitation with housing and mentioned the last time she heard from Turning Point they had approached the trustees to look at recovery housing.

Masure asked where the money was located. Pickup said it was in a dedicated account and not in the general fund, so they could appropriate how to use it and when, but agreed it should be separate. He said he would ask Finance Director Alyssa Harlow to highlight the account and Wright asked for it on the monthly report.

The board agreed to consider feedback and proposals before they decided how to spend village settlement funds.

Trustee meetings are on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.


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