CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Gov. Jim Justice announced the appointment Monday of five people to the board of a private foundation that will distribute most of West Virginia’s $1 billion-plus in opioid lawsuit settlements.
The governor’s picks for the foundation’s 11-member board of the West Virginia First Foundation are Jefferson County Prosecutor Matt Harvey; former state Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy; Harrison County schools Superintendent Dora Stutler; attorney and philanthropist Alys Smith, who is the wife of Marshall University President Brad Smith; and Raleigh County Commissioner Greg Duckworth.
The governor’s choices still must be approved by the state Senate. The other six members of the committee were nominated by local governments throughout the state.
West Virginia is home to the nation’s highest overdose death rate. The foundation was created as an initiative of the attorney general’s office, the agency litigating the state’s opioid cases.
It will distribute just under three quarters of the settlement money won by the state in lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors in West Virginia. Around a quarter will go directly to local communities, and 3% will remain in trust.
All funds must be used to abate the opioid crisis through efforts such as evidence-based addiction treatment, recovery and prevention programs, or supporting law enforcement efforts to curtail distribution.