Rep for opiate settlement board to be picked from 13 county region

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County Commission will host a 13-county meeting to pick a member for the board that will oversee the spending of opiate settlement dollars.

The board member selected will be a part of the West Virginia First Foundation, where they will join five other representatives elected by the other 42 counties in the state to determine how funds will be distributed statewide. The meeting is hosted on behalf of the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

“They have asked that one county in each region that is the most populous county in that region host a meeting and a subsequent election,” said County Administrator Rennetta McClure. “To elect a director, which is technically just a board member,” she said.

Monongalia County’s region, Region 4, will include Preston, Marion, Braxton, Lewis, Harrison, Taylor, Tucker, Barbour, Randolph, Gilmer, Doddridge, and Upshur counties. The board representative picked to represent Region 4 will be one of eleven board members from across the state that will decide the fate of over $1 billion in opioid settlements. Six of those members will be appointed by Governor Jim Justice, with the other five selected in the same multi-county representative format. The board will then determine 72.5 percent of the settlement funds that haven’t already been directed to West Virginia counties and municipalities.

“It means we’re one of eleven, and then that board will decide how the funds will be distributed on different projects,” said Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom.

The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office recommended that nominees for the board be non-political figures. To accommodate the request, the commission encouraged Monongalia County residents with expertise in the medical field and substance abuse treatment as one of several sectors that would bring a quality nomination. Each of the 13 counties will bring nominees to vote on negotiated allocation percentages.

“General knowledge, skill, and experience to advance the foundation’s goals require expertise in one or more of the following disciplines: substance abuse treatment, mental health, law enforcement, pharmacology, finance, healthcare policy, and management,” said McClure.

The meeting between Monongalia County representatives and 12 other counties must be scheduled before July 17 to comply with the articles of incorporation for the West Virginia First Foundation. McClure stated that she’s in communication with the County Commissioners’ Association of West Virginia, which is working with the West Virginia Municipal League to inform other municipalities of the future meeting date. The Commission plans to announce a meeting date in the coming weeks as they search for potential nominees to the opioid settlement board.

“When we have all the municipalities, we all then have to decide on only one representative for that region,” said Bloom.