Harwich Officials Offer Recommendations for Opioid Funding

HARWICH – Officials in Harwich have offered their recommendations for the use of opioid settlement funding.

The money stems from a $26 billion nationwide legal settlement made by drugmakers and distributors such as Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuit was related to the companies’ role in the opioid addiction crisis.

Massachusetts communities will be using over $500 million provided from the settlement to combat the epidemic through improves in treatment, recovery, and harm reduction.

A working group featuring officials such as Harwich Health Director Katie O’Neill and Police Chief David Guillemette recently met with the town’s Select Board to provide their final recommendations on grant plans.

The group identified the creation of youth prevention and outreach programs, along with the development of relationships with outpatient and healthcare partners, as major goals during the current fiscal year.

With that, the group recommended offering $37,500 to Outer Cape Health Services, $10,000 to Duffy Health Center, $7,500 to Gosnold, and $5,000 for a dedicated wellness space in the town.

A $700 allotment for the training of three staff members at local schools was also included in the proposal.

Select Board member Don Howell expressed worries over the grade seven starting point for opioid prevention programs aimed at children, adding that it may be best to begin education courses earlier.

“I’m really concerned that the bus has already left the station by then,” Howell said, “because a lot of discussion about some of this stuff happens in early middle school.”

Officials in the group noted that the school staff training program could potentially cover kindergarten through grade 12.

The Select Board was unanimous in their approval of the initiatives, but Board Chair Michael MacAskill noted that they need to ensure with Finance Director Ann Marie Ellis that the programs are in line with frameworks established by the state.

“The last one we voted on these funds really didn’t fit into the criteria allowed by the state,” MacAskill said.

A vote to approve the recommendations will be taken by the Select Board on February 21.

About Brendan Fitzpatrick

Brendan, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is one of the newest members of the CapeCod.com NewsCenter team. When not on the beat, you'll probably find him watching Boston sports.

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