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Valparaiso Council members consider applications for opioid settlement funds

Valparaiso Now Facebook page

Valparaiso officials are reviewing funding requests from organizations looking to help those with substance use disorder. City council members Peter Anderson and Barbara Domer are going through applications for some of the city's opioid settlement money, before making recommendations to the full council.

During Monday's council meeting, Domer noted that many of the applications aim to expand the availability of counseling. "Is there a way that this counseling can be on a more coordinated level, as opposed to in specific organizations?" Domer wondered.

She also wants to make sure the money is used to expand services, rather than fund existing programs. "I want to do as much as I can to help the people who are suffering from this awful disease, and I'm just kind of working through the applications and saying to myself, 'How does this happen?'" Domer added.

But Council President Robert Cotton felt the city needs to decide how much money to give away at a time and how to evaluate the applications. "Quite frankly, I believe the applications have come out and been simply requested prior to us having a fundamental structure, a fundamental understanding of what we will be looking for, consistent with what these principles are for saving lives," Cotton said.

Cotton suggested hiring someone with expertise to make sure the money is distributed fairly. "After all, 500,000 people have died, so it's not free money," Cotton said. "This is — I don't want to say blood money — but certainly, there's a great amount of responsibility that comes along with the source of these funds."

He also wanted to make sure some funding goes toward prevention programs for youth.

But council member Anderson warned against adding more layers of bureaucracy. "I think a lot of the halfway houses in town need this money right now. Like, they need this money yesterday. And it's vitally important, and with respect, I think what you're suggesting is too much."

He argued that most of the local organizations who could apply already have.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.