LEE COUNTY – The owner of the Talbot-Sober Living Residence in Keokuk pushed Lee County Supervisors for funding to help with her facility that treats men suffering from addiction.
Kathy Gabel, a Talbot board member, asked the county’s Board of Supervisors to support the facility with a $15,000 contribution out of the county’s opioid abatement fund.
The facility was set up to help men regain a footing with their employers and families and shirk the yokes of alcoholism and drug addiction.
“I developed the Talbot Hall and currently serve as a board member,” Gabel said.
“Pain is what the patient says it is. As a medical professional, you have to address it.”
She said narcotics for chronic pain have been the drugs of choice for physicians and the addictions that were created made patients search for other sources after prescriptions ran out.
Then, when the legal sources of pain management were exhausted, some patients would turn to the streets. She said physicians then became hog-tied to either continue to prescribe or develop a whole new business of pain control.
“Thank goodness the proliferation was exposed and the perpetrators are being held accountable,” she said.
Gabel said the county has already spent $230,000 of the $245,000 its abatement settlement to subsidize the county’s ambulance service. She said that represents 93% of the settlement money received to date and it represents about 23% of the total money anticipated by current settlements.
Opioid settlement guidelines indicate that 75% of a local government’s settlement funds must be spent on core strategies outlined in a memorandum of understanding, while 25% can be spent on other efforts to manage addiction in respective counties.
“As a business owner and administrator, I would have a difficult time putting (the ambulance) under the 85% rule,” Gabel said. “But would agree they were within the 15% rule, but outside their box. They are over the 15%.”
Gabel said she had read that the ratios were 85% and 15%, but Supervisor Tom Schulz corrected her on those numbers, saying they were 75% and 25%.
The county has about $15,000 left in the opioid settlement fund and Gabel asked to have that money allocated to her facility to help offset costs of supporting those residing there.
“I looked at that and thought that would go a long way in building our services,” Gabel said. “As time goes by and you get more settlement money, we may come back for more.”
Schulz, who sits on a committee established by the board to make recommendations on how to spend the funds, said the committee is moving forward with a countywide needs assessment.
“We did hold a meeting and we want to come up with a good, long-term plan before we started putting money out there,” Schulz said.
Lee County Health Department administrator Michele Ross is working to put together a coalition to help create the needs assessment and Schulz suggested Gabel join that group to add valuable insight from the Talbot center.
Gabel said none of the supervisors other than Matt Pflug has been out to the Talbot center to see what is happening there, so they don’t know what’s being provided.
Davon Dade, the director of the center, said the Talbot center is really the only center in the area providing the service.
“We get a large number of people coming from Fort Madison and Burlington. When we knew this was coming, no one was contacted. That’s why we keep coming in and pressing the topic,” he said.
Gabel and Dade both have previously spoken to supervisors about the opioid money.
Gabel said funds started coming into the county in 2022 and the county should have formed a committee at that point.
“Maybe. But I would say the ultimate responsibility for expenditure is with supervisors and the committee would be advisory. The county was going through a significant emergency at that time with regard to EMS and what was going on in Keokuk. There was consultation at numerous levels at the state and county level,” Schulz said.
Gabel said it’s important that people know the funds aren’t just to save an ambulance service, but to help remediate the opioid pandemic.
Ross said she is working on putting together a committee to look at where the gaps are in the county and then coming up with a plan and a possible application process to address those.
“That’s where we are now, putting together some data and assessing the strengths and assets we have and where our gaps are,” Ross said.
With current settlements already inked by the county through the class action in Iowa, the county stands to receive about $1.1 million through 2036. However, there are still settlements working their way through the courts that could possibly generate additional and substantial funds for the county.
The most current settlement would be through Teva/Allergan, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS. Counties in Iowa have signed off on initial national settlement terms with those organizations.
A National Opioid Abatement Trust has been established to handle the funds and make sure local governments are in compliance with a memorandum of understanding as part of the settlements.
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