Millions in state’s opioid settlement fund in limbo

JOHNSTON — Nearly $27 million in state funding that could have been used for prevention and treatment of opioid use won’t be spent. States are getting money from legal settlements with pharmaceutical companies and distributors accused of fueling the opioid crisis, but Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate can’t agree on how money in the Iowa’s Opioid Settlement Fund should be spent. Republicans in the Senate favored letting Iowa’s attorney general and the Department of Health and Human Services distribute the money.

House Speaker Pat Grassley says Republicans in the House had a different idea.  “Where we wanted to get is assign some of those dollars to specific projects, but at the same time not just blanket hand those dollars over to the department,” Grassley says. “…We wanted to at least set up an advisory board that the legislature would have some input on.”

The state’s Opioid Settlement Fund will eventually receive $144 million over the next several years. That is to be split evenly between state and local governments in Iowa. House Republicans proposed that new council made up of opioid experts in state government and the private sector review grant applications and make recommendations to the legislature for approval. “To get those kind of dollars that you’re talking about out the door, I think the legislature should be involved in that conversation and ultimately that’s where the differences boiled down to,” Grassley says, “turn it over to the department or have a little bit more control by the legislature.”

Grassley made his comments during a recent appearance on “Iowa Press” on Iowa PBS.