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Vital Strategies to Dedicate $1.5 Million to 12 North Carolina Counties That Use Opioid Settlement Money to Make Harm Reduction Services More Accessible

Matching Funds go to Counties for Naloxone Distribution and Syringe Service Programs 

January 23, 2023 (North Carolina) Every day in 2021, ten North Carolinians died of a drug overdose. That year, more than 107,000 people in the United States lost their lives to the overdose crisis, and early data from 2022 suggests this pace of loss has continued. Fentanyl is involved in 75% of overdose deaths in North Carolina, and rural counties are particularly impacted. Millions of dollars from opioid litigation settlements are now flowing to state and local governments across the country, to develop and expand local services for addressing the overdose crisis. 

To augment this effort, global public health organization Vital Strategies has awarded $1.5 million over three years to eight applicants representing 12 North Carolina counties who are leveraging settlement funds to expand community-based naloxone distribution and syringe service programs (SSPs). These harm reduction services are key for reducing overdose deaths and engaging people who use drugs in health and social services.  

“I’m glad to report that our call for applicants to this innovative funding program received an overwhelming response. There is widespread recognition of the need for community-based harm reduction services in North Carolina,” said Kat Humphries, Technical Advisor, Overdose Prevention Program. “We hope to catalyze this momentum into sustainable partnerships between local governments and harm reduction providers, to significantly reduce the tragic scale of overdose in North Carolina communities.” 

Over the next 18 years, North Carolina counties and municipalities will receive over $640 million through the opioid litigation settlements, with several larger counties eligible for upwards of $1.5 million per year. Local governments are in the process of deciding how to spend these dollars to stem the tide of overdose deaths.  To incentivize investment in syringe service programs (SSPs) and naloxone distribution, two evidence-based and life-saving harm reduction interventions, public health organization Vital Strategies is matching county opioid settlement dollars committed for these services in the selected counties. Counties were selected through an open process held in fall 2022, which evaluated applicants on a number of factors, including community-based services, racial equity, and geographic spread, to reach the most marginalized communities across North Carolina in need of harm reduction services.  

Awardees include: 

·       Cabarrus County & Cabarrus Health Alliance ($70,000) 

·       Hoke County & Tia Hart Community Recovery ($20,000) 

·       Martin-Tyrell-Washington Health District & The Hope Exchange ($70,000) 

·       Mecklenburg County & Queen City Harm Reduction ($70,000) 

·       Montgomery County & FirstHealth of the Carolinas ($69,854) 

·       Rowan County & Rowan County Public Health Department ($69,995) 

·       Stanly County & Uwharrie Harm Reduction ($59,405) 

·       Watauga, Ashe, & Alleghany Counties & AppHealthCare ($70,000) 

Vital Strategies will match county opioid settlement funding up to $70,000 annually for three years per awardee. The North Carolina Community Foundation will work with Vital Strategies to help distribute these funds and monitor programs.  

“We are honored to work with Vital Strategies to provide this funding to support our communities and to help address the opioid crisis,” said Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, President and CEO of the North Carolina Community Foundation.

“Rural North Carolina counties face a daunting challenge in addressing Opioid Use Disorder.”said Commissioner Shaw from Montgomery County. “As a Commissioner responsible for developing a strategy to address this difficult moment, I want to thank Vital Strategies for the additional support and partnership. The dedicated staff from Vital Strategies took time to listen to our stories, provide guidance rooted in experience and expertise, and help us develop a plan for utilizing their offer of matching funds towards a unified effort. We are not naive to the obstacles in our path. With the help of many hands, we will lift our brothers and sisters out of the darkness.”  

The first rounding of funding will be dispersed to awardees in January.

About Vital Strategies   

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. In November 2021, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a five-year, $120 million investment to help combat the overdose crisis in the hard-hit states of Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The initiative builds on work of the previous three years in Michigan and Pennsylvania, launched in 2018 with $50 million, and expands the work to promote improved federal policies. The partnership between Vital Strategies, Pew Charitable Trusts, Johns Hopkins University, CDC Foundation, and Global Health Advocacy Incubator is helping to strengthen and scale up evidence-based, data-driven policies and interventions to reduce overdose risks and save lives.

Media Contact: 
Tony Newman:; 646-335-5384
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