CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the recently created West Virginia First Foundation met together for the first time Monday in Charleston.
The group is the one being held responsible for the distribution of opioid settlement money in West Virginia. The Foundation, which met at the Truist building, is made up of 11 members in total, with six members chosen from their respective regions and five more picked by Governor Jim Justice.
During Monday’s meeting, the board nominated a chair and three others to officer roles.
Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Harvey was elected as chair with State Health Officer Dr. Matthew Christiansen elected to be vice-chair. Former State Secretary of Homeland Security Jeff Sandy is treasurer and Harrison County Schools Superintendent Dora Sutler is secretary.
Harvey said every board member is hopeful about what they can accomplish for the state and each county and municipality that will receive settlement money.
“We’re going to adopt and create tools to combat the opioid surge that has plagued this state for a generation,” Harvey said.
Harvey said their mission as members of the West Virginia First Foundation is clear. They want to get the state back on the right track and begin a healing process for all those who have been affected by the ongoing drug epidemic.
“We want to save families and we want to restore families,” said Harvey. “We’re so hopeful that we actually have the tools to fight back.”
Even though it was their initial meeting, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called it a great day for the state of West Virginia.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for the state of West Virginia to finally begin the healing from the ravages of the drug epidemic that has been going on for so long,” Morrisey said Monday.
More than $1 billion will be at the state’s use from the settlement money over the course of multiple years. At the moment, the state has $300 million approved to start going out. Morrisey said some settlements won’t come in until as late as 2036. Counties and municipalities will start to receive their cut of the initial $300 million by the end of this year, according to the board.
All West Virginia counties and municipalities agreed to a memorandum of understanding for how the money would be dispersed. The foundation itself will receive 72.5% of the share with counties and municipalities receiving 24.5% and the state getting the final 3%.
Morrisey said the members of the board understand what they’re being asked to do. He said in the coming meetings, they will look to attract more money and resources from both the state and the federal level.
“We want to do everything imaginable to help them succeed and so we’re going to stop at nothing to make sure that this is a successful venture,” said Morrisey.
Also, for the future meetings, Morrisey and Harvey said they will be more organizational and break down exactly how the money will be moved across the state.
Story by WVMetronews correspondent Jarrett Lewis