Emily Rice Published

Foundation To Distribute Opioid Funds Holds First Meeting

A group of people dressed in suits sit at a board meeting table.
A meeting of the West Virginia First Foundation.
Emily Rice/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Through settlements from various lawsuits with opioid manufacturers and distributors, West Virginia stands to gain about $1 billion over the next 10 to 15 years to be spent for recovery and prevention programs.

To ensure the money is used correctly, the West Virginia Legislature created the West Virginia First Foundation to distribute those settlement funds.

The organization held its first meeting on Monday and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminded the board how the money can be spent.

“Anything that is related to the drug epidemic would be permissible, whether it is education, prevention, treatment, law enforcement or other matters,” Morrisey said.

The board elected its chair, Matt Harvey, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney, and vice chair, Dr. Matthew Christiansen, who also serves as the state health officer and commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau of Public Health. 

The board also elected its treasurer as Jeff Sandy, former secretary of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Dora Stutler, Harrison County Schools superintendent.

The board includes 11 members, six selected by the counties and five appointed by the governor. All six regions elected their representatives via a quorum of elected officials from the towns, cities and counties of each region.

The foundation will handle 72.5 percent of the state’s settlement funds, while 24.5 percent will go to local governments. The state will hold the remaining 3 percent in escrow to cover any outstanding attorney’s fees.

Each region is represented by their elected representative:

  • Region 1: Steven Corder
  • Region 2: Tim Czaja
  • Region 3: Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce
  • Region 4: Jonathan Board
  • Region 5: Dr. Matthew Christiansen
  • Region 6: Dr. Tony Kelly

Per the memorandum of understanding that frames the settlement distribution, board members will serve staggered terms of three years.

Representatives from Huntington Bank were present at the meeting because they served as the escrow agent to the foundation, free of charge. 

The board voted to open an account with Huntington Bank, then moved into executive session for the remainder of the afternoon.