Emily Rice Published

Kanawha County Calls For Transparency In Opioid Foundation

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 (WVFF) to distribute those settlement funds.

On Tuesday, the Kanawha County Commission sent a letter to Dr. Mathew Christiansen, the vice chair of the WVFF board.

The letter reminded Christiansen, and the board, of compliance with the Open Meetings Act, which was voted into the foundation bylaws in 2023.

“The counties and municipalities have heard nothing as to the actions of the West Virginia First Foundation,” the letter reads. “We understand that there have been meetings, but that information has been garnered from the media. We should hear from our duly elected representative first, rather than hearing it second hand after the fact and from the media.”

Christiansen said he appreciates the continued dialogue about transparency and openness.

“Certainly appreciate the county commission reaching out for more regular venues or forms of communication and acknowledge that’s really important for this process, going forward,” Christiansen said. “We are a new foundation, and we’re getting our feet underneath us. And as we haven’t had an executive director, we haven’t had full time staff. And so that’s certainly an area that we will be prioritizing and planning around to make sure that we can communicate more regularly with stakeholders and get the message out to make sure that we address their concerns.”

Other than paying attorney’s fees, the WVFF has not spent any settlement money yet according to Christiansen. Those expenditures can be found at wvfirst.org.

The new Executive Director, Jonathan Board is set to start in the beginning of May.

“I acknowledge the importance of communication and the board is committed to transparency and accountability with regards to these dollars,” Christiansen said. “Everything that we do is going to be public.”