The newly formed West Virginia First Foundation will distribute settlement funds from lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors.
It will handle 72.5 percent of the state’s settlement funds, while 24.5 percent would go to local governments. The remaining 3 percent will be held by the state in escrow.
Senate Bill 674 legally recognizes the creation of the foundation, which was announced last month by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill Wednesday.
“We can expand treatment, we can provide evidence-based substance use prevention through this foundation,” Morrisey said during a live stream of the bill’s signing. “We’ll actually help ensure that the laws in our state are better enforced.”
The foundation board will include eleven board members. The governor will appoint five, and six will be selected by local governments across designated regions. Each board member would serve a three year term.
All 55 counties and 221 of West Virginia’s 229 cities have signed the foundation’s Memorandum of Understanding, which also establishes the six regions to be represented in the foundation’s board. An executive director will also be named to run the foundation’s daily operations.
In January, Morrisey announced the state had settled for $83 million with the pharmacy store chain Walgreens. Walmart and CVS Pharmacy settled with West Virginia in September for a combined total of $147 million, and a similar settlement for $400 million was reached in August with the nation’s “big three” opioid distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.
“We know that the opioid epidemic has been one of the great challenges of our time, we know that there’s been a lot of senseless death,” Morrisey said. “The bill being signed today marks a tremendous point in time in our effort to fight back against this terrible crisis.”
West Virginia is also set to take grocery store chain Kroger to trial in June.