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Boone County using opioid settlement funds to create social worker role under the sheriff’s department

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Boone County using opioid settlement funds to create social worker role under the sheriff’s department

Feb 26, 2024 | 8:00 am ET
By Kenton Hornbeck
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Boone County using opioid settlement funds to create social worker role under the sheriff’s department
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Naloxone (Narcan) nasal spray can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Boone County is set to hire three new workers aimed at addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by the opioid crisis.

On Tuesday, the Boone County Fiscal Court approved a resolution allowing the use of opioid abatement funds to hire up to three police navigators/social workers — a newly created position.

“This is one of the greatest uses of the dollars, overall I would say,” Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore said. “The program has tremendous potential in many ways.”

The money comes from a $26 billion settlement between multiple states and some of the United States’ largest pharmaceutical corporations, specifically, drug distributors — McKesson Corp., AmeriSourceBergen and Cardinal Health — and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. Kentucky received $478 million from the settlement; half of the money was distributed to the state, while the other half went to local government.

Boone County is set to receive an estimated $4.6 million distributed in yearly allotments until 2038, according to a database published by the Kentucky Association of Counties.

To decide how to use the funds, Boone County Administrator Matthew Webster said that throughout 2022 and 2023, county staff consulted with community stakeholders impacted by the opioid epidemic, such as the sheriff’s department, drug court, and the cities of Florence, Walton and Union, among others.

Ultimately, the county created a new position under the sheriff’s department. Laura Pleiman, thedirector of Community Services and Programs for the fiscal court, worked with the sheriff’s department and other community agencies to craft a job description, protocols and plans for the new police navigator/social worker position. The position will be housed under the sheriff’s department.

Webster said the position would provide, “relief to frontline deputies while addressing non-law enforcement issues that currently require the time and attention of sworn officers with a particular emphasis on opioid use and its tangential impacts.”

Moore explained that the workers are there “when law enforcement has stabilized a situation,” but there still needs to be someone present to engage with family members or other present individuals.

The county plans to wait to hire the three staffers; instead, it will hire two in the coming months to adequately develop the program. The position would pay around $78,000 annually, Webster said.

Other police departments in Northern Kentucky already have similar staff positions. Pleiman said the county worked closely with the Alexandria Police Department social workers to develop the position.

“I would say probably that Northern Kentucky is leading the way a lot in this area,” Pleiman said.

This story is republished from LINK nky.