County disburses opioid settlement funds

Dec. 6—MERCER — Mercer County commissioners reported that the county Opioid Settlement Committee has awarded nine grants worth $656,000 so far.

Mercer County received $874,000 in two payments in 2022 and 2023 as part of the opioid crisis settlement from drug distributors.

The agreement awards the county a total of about $6.5 million over 20 years, with payments made annually.

The county formed the Opioid Settlement Committee to decide how to use the money. The committee includes representatives from recovery centers, counseling centers, Children and Youth Services, Probation and Parole, public defender's office and the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, as well as Coroner John A. Libonati, District Attorney Peter C. Acker and Common Pleas Judge Ronald D. Amrhein Jr.

The grants were awarded to Helping Hands Ministries Inc., Grove City; Minority Health Center, Farrell; Community Counseling Center, Hermitage; Mercer County District Attorney's Office; two to the Mercer County prison board; Rainbow Recovery, Sharon; Hermitage Rotary Club; and Mercer High School.

Commissioner Scott Boyd reported that $122,000 of the money has been used specifically for treatment and counseling.

"Progress is being made at this early stage," Boyd said. "In some cases, training and counselors, in other cases, actual hands-on is taking place."

Boyd said the next update will come from the new board of commissioners June 1.

"We've seen a lot of activity already early in the process and I hope to see much more moving forward," Boyd said. "I'm seeing progress and I'm very pleased about it."

Boyd was pleased with the results of one grant in particular, the grant to Mercer School District.

"The school assembly was well-received by the young people there," Boyd said.

Commissioner Matt McConnell said the county has been on this journey that started with the lawsuits about a decade ago.

"We joined other counties to start a suit," McConnell said. "Everybody asked me, 'What are you going to do with the money if you get it?' I said quite frankly, I don't care about the money. I think it has brought attention but the money is being utilized here in Mercer County to continue to combat and try and help individuals to seek additional providers."

McConnell said the disbursement is ongoing and the responsibility will move to the new board of commissioners made up of Tim McGonigle, Ann Coleman and Bill Finley Jr. starting Jan. 1.

"I hope Mercer County will be a leader on the suit," McConnell said. "I do look forward to seeing how it's being spent going forward."

Follow Melissa Klaric on twitter @HeraldKlaric or email her at mklaric@sharonherald.com