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October 7, 2021 - 12:24pm

opioid_image_1.jpgA Genesee County legislator believes that county departments dealing with substance use issues -- whether in the form of education, prevention, treatment or enforcement – should be first in line to receive money awarded to the municipality through New York State’s settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Speaking at Wednesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse, Marianne Clattenburg said any list of ways to spend the $1 million or so expected to be distributed to Genesee County should start with initiatives supporting county units, such as the Youth Bureau, Mental Health and the Sheriff’s Office.

“This isn’t really that much money. And I think between the Youth Bureau, and their prevention efforts, and Mental Health and the issues that have arrived, especially with children and therapies that are going on because they’re dealing with drug abuse of parents and foster parents (would be the best use of the funds).”

Clattenburg said substance use and its effect upon other areas of society warrant immediate attention.

“I think there’s enough need inside the county that those stakeholders need to be focused on – those dollars staying in the county before we talk about other agencies …” she said. “I’m just concerned that outside agencies … are already asking how much money they’re going to get from this.”

County Manager Matt Landers responded by saying that representatives of Genesee County Mental Health, Sheriff’s Office, Public Health and Youth Bureau would be on the committee.

In a story posted on The Batavian on Monday, Landers said that Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, an outside agency that receives some funding from the county, and possibly other non-county organizations, will be involved.

Contacted today, he said the committee “will be weighted in favor of Genesee County departments," but will include John Bennett, GCASA executive director.

“It’s a fluid process,” Landers said. “As we move forward, we may see more partners to bring to the table.”

He said the first committee meeting is scheduled for later this month.

Ways & Means Committee members were asked to consider a resolution approving a proposed settlement with McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corporation, and their multiple subsidiaries – the “Big 3 Distributors” – that could result in the county receiving anywhere from $1,055,674 to $1,864,833, with payments made over 18 years.

County Attorney Kevin Earl said the New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik, which is representing municipalities across the state, “brought a number of actions not only against the people who manufacture the opioids, but the distributors – claiming that they violated certain laws by not accounting for where this stuff was going. In other words, they contributed to the proliferation of the opioid crisis.”

Earl said the monetary amount depends upon how many communities participate in the class action proceedings.

“Just like the other (Johnson & Johnson) settlement, (it comes) with a sliding scale,” he said. “The more people that … sign on to join the settlement, the more Big 3 Distributors are willing to pay because their exposure lessens. The likelihood is pretty high that we will get the high end of the settlement.”

Funds received have to be targeted toward substance use treatment, prevention, training and enforcement, he added.

“Within those categories, there is some flexibility but we can’t spend the money for water funds or bridge funds.”

While Earl said this money is addition to funds from the J&J settlement, it is unclear exactly how much the county will receive at this point.

Landers said he and Earl will be speaking with the attorneys representing the county in this matter to determine the dollar figure, but estimates an award of at least $1.3 million.

The county manager said the plan is to meet with all stakeholders and make recommendations that would be forwarded to the legislature.

The first payment is expected in February 2022, Earl said.

Previously: NYS AG reports that Genesee County is in line for up to $1 million in opioid settlement funding

September 15, 2021 - 6:49pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, notify, County Legislature, Ways & Means, Kathy Hochul.

The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee this afternoon responded to a call from the New York State Association of Counties to oppose Gov. Kathy Hochul’s order forcing all healthcare workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 27 or risk losing their jobs.

The committee passed a resolution urging Hochul and new Health Commissioner Ann Marie T. Sullivan to modify the COVID-19 mandate by providing options such as regular testing for those opting to not take the vaccine at this time. It will be presented to the entire legislature at next Wednesday’s meeting.

“This came as a result of the letter that was sent from the nine counties in the Finger Lakes Region (expressing) our concern in regards to the healthcare crisis that is facing us on September 27th,” Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said. “It was delivered to the NYSAC folks, and they sent a letter immediately but they’re asking for counties to please send resolutions urging the same.”

Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg echoed Stein’s thoughts, stating that “there will be a crisis in healthcare if all of these people who are not vaccinated are forced to resign their positions without any kind of alternative testing options.”

Stein pointed out that many healthcare facilities are closing departments as workers have already decided to quit.

“Just this week, Lewis County shut down – their hospital shut down their maternity ward, St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany is shutting down a whole wing and Wyoming County Hospital’s nursing home is looking at 50-plus people resigning over the vaccine mandate,” she said. “And the result is going to be overwhelmed hospitals and we’re going to be in a worse position than we were last March, April and May in New York State.”

Clattenburg said that the committee is encouraging other options, such as twice-a-week testing and masking -- “everything we’ve been doing in order to keep our healthcare workers working.”

Stein agreed, noting that while “everyone is encouraged to take their vaccine as a preventive … those who are not, this would at least give them an opportunity to continue in the care for our communities.”

On Aug. 28, New York 28 issued the order requiring healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes to get at least their first vaccine shot by Sept. 27. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Utica temporarily blocked the state from forcing medical workers to be vaccinated, following a lawsuit by 17 healthcare workers, who contend that not allowing religious exemptions to the mandate violated their Constitutional rights.

The state has until Sept. 22 to respond, and if it opposes the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary court order blocking the vaccine mandate, an oral hearing will take place on Sept. 28.

The Genesee County resolution stipulates that copies be sent to Hochul, Sullivan, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt.

In a related development, about two dozen people -- mostly healthcare workers -- gathered at the Main and Ellicott in downtown Batavia around 6 p.m. yesterday, holding signs stating "Coercion is Not Consent" and "If it's Forced, Are we Free?" and protesting what they proclaimed is a loss of freedom. The protesters found support for their cause by passers-by honking horns and giving thumbs up.

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