MONTGOMERY — Legislators and state officials have begun deliberations over how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars the state of Alabama has received in litigation settlements with pharmaceutical companies. 

The U.S. opioid crisis has been especially severe in Alabama. A report conducted between Nov. 21, 2021, and Nov. 20, 2022, named Alabama the state with the seventh-highest non-fatal opioid overdose rate in the country.

The state will bring in nearly $600 million over several years, split between state, city and county governments.

Members of the Oversight Commission on Opioid Settlement Funds met on Thursday to hear from a variety of companies, non-profit organizations and state agencies asking to receive some of the settlement funds. 

"I want to get it out to the communities where people are actually being taken care of. Especially in rural communities," State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia), a commission member, told 1819 News after the meeting on Thursday. "Secondly, look at prevention. If we can prevent somebody from using drugs right now as a 12-year-old, that's a whole lot better than treating them now as a 22-year-old."

Commission Chair State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville) said the legislature recently appropriated $1.5 million to the Alabama Department of Corrections and $8.5 million to the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) in the first allocation of settlement funds.

"These are available funds, and this is a quick turnaround so please pay attention to that and seek those funds so we can get them on the street," Reynolds said at the meeting. 

Public or private non-profit organizations interested in applying for a settlement fund grant through ADMH must be certified by ADMH to provide substance use treatment services, certified by ADMH to provide prevention services, approved by ADMH to provide recovery support services or be certified or approved by ADMH to provide such services within four months of being awarded a grant. A request for proposals will be posted on on Friday, with award recommendations being made the first week of January. The deadline to apply is December 8. The funding will be used for prevention, treatment, and recovery support related to substance abuse.

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