LEWISBURG, W.Va. (WVDN) – On March 22, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law Senate Bill 674, creating the West Virginia First Foundation to manage funds the state received through settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors, pharmacies, consulting firms and other organizations found to have played a role in the opioid epidemic. To date, West Virginia has received the largest per capita opioid settlements in the country, worth more than $1 billion.
The legislation establishes the private, nonprofit West Virginia First Foundation, which will be responsible for distribution of settlement or judgment funds from opioid litigation.
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) was involved in the establishment of the West Virginia First Foundation through Drema Hill, Ph.D., MSP, the school’s vice president for community engagement and development, who has served as a consultant to the West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office for three years, working on the abatement side of the process.
Hill said she was pleased with the legislation.
“I have been around a long time, and I cannot remember the last unopposed bill in both the House and Senate,” Hill said. “I am proud of our lawmakers.”
The ability to distribute funds from the opioid judgement and settlements will create resources in West Virginia for prevention, care, treatment and recovery for individuals with substance use disorder and their families.
The West Virginia First Foundation will be managed by a board of 11 members. Six members will represent the six state regions outlined in the West Virginia First memorandum of understanding approved by all 55 counties, and five members will be appointed by the governor. An executive director, appointed by the attorney general, will run the foundation’s everyday operations.
Hill said she agrees with Morrisey’s belief that the legislation will allow the state to move forward in placing resources where they are most needed.
“During the three years I have worked with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, I have discovered how much he cares for our state’s children, families and communities,” Hill said. “He told me early on that his office would win the largest per capita opioid settlement in the country, and it did. I am proud of the work we have done, and I am thankful that WVSOM’s president, James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., realized the importance of the work and agreed to partner with the attorney general’s office for the good of communities statewide.”