CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Senate Bill 674, which recognizes the creation of the West Virginia First Foundation, has been signed by Gov. Jim Justice.
“I applaud Gov. Justice, the state Senate and the House of Delegates for the immediate attention given to this very important bill,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We will now have the groundwork desperately needed to facilitate the management of the state’s and political subdivisions’ nearly $1 billion in opioid settlements.”
“These settlements will not bring back the lives lost from the opioid epidemic, but our hope is that the money would provide significant help to those affected the most.”
Families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl attended the bill signing Wednesday along with state lawmakers, area mayors and other local dignitaries.
SB 674 recognizes the West Virginia First Foundation and authorizes the governor to make appointments to its board of directors with the advice and consent of the Senate.
The creation of the West Virginia First Foundation— a private, nonstock, nonprofit foundation, for the purposes of distributing any settlement or judgment funds awarded from litigation for abatement purposes—will be pursuant to the terms of the West Virginia First Memorandum of Understanding.
“This is the time to begin the healing from all the carnage caused by the opioid epidemic,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We must prevent another generation from falling prey to senseless death.”
So far, all 55 counties and 221 of 229 cities and towns have signed on to the MOU.
As the central organization dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis throughout the state, the Foundation will receive 72.5% of each settlement or judgment, 24.5% of settlement and judgment dollars will be allocated to local governments and 3% will be held in escrow by the state.
This allocation maximizes the amount of money that will be available for an opioid abatement fund and will distribute money throughout the state. This distribution will allow the money to help people and fund projects most in need.
The Foundation will be managed by a board of 11 members, five of whom will be appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate. To represent the interests of local governments, the MOU establishes six regions, and one member will be chosen from each of those regions.
An executive director will run the day-to-day operations of the foundation.
“So many lives have been lost and shattered by the opioid epidemic,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “With this new law, West Virginia has dramatically improved its ability to take actions, including abatement, education and treatment to help our state recover from this epidemic.”
“We will continue to fight for those families and we will serve as the voices of the sons and daughters they have lost,” the Attorney General added. “The severity of this problem and the harm done to West Virginians cannot be ignored.”
In case you missed it, here’s video of the bill signing: http://bit.ly/40iHA02.