Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) With funding from the national opioid settlement ready for distribution, the Missoula City Council on Monday approved an agreement with the county to establish an opioid abatement region that encompasses Missoula County.

The procedural step was required by the state as it prepares to begin issuing funds from its share of a muli-million-dollar settlement with various pharmaceutical companies including Johnson & Johnson, and a consortium of distributors collectively known as as Janssen.

“A year ago, we entered into an memorandum of understanding with the state to join this settlement agreement they have with that (pharmaceutical) company and some of the distributors,” said Jessica Miller, the city's citizen services manager. “The state has established the structure to be able to distribute those funds.”

Missoula County in mid-November approved an agreement with the Montana Attorney General's Office on how the funding will be managed at the local level. The state has created several opioid abatement regions, with Missoula County being its own entity.

With the agreement now set between the city and county, the funds heading to Missoula will be managed by the mayor and the chair of the Board of Missoula County Commissioners. How those funds will be spent hasn't yet been determined.

“This does not designate how those funds will be used, budget those funds or allocate those funds in any way,” said Miller. “All of the allocation of funds will occur later during a regular budget process. The allocation will happen at a later point in time.”

The Missoula abatement region is expected to receive around $220,000 from the Janssen settlement in the first year, and $150,000 each year after for 18 years. The city will also receive $17,000 in direct funds.

Other settlement cases are still pending, including that with Purdue Pharma, and could release billions more in funding.

As set by the state, funding from the first settlement can be used to address any number of opioid related issues including awareness, addiction services, support for law enforcement, treatment courts and drug disposal programs.

“This nearly isn't enough money, but it's a start and I'm happy we'll have something,” said council member Amber Sherrill.